Monday, 17 March 2014

Are libraries valuable?

Do  you still use libraries? How has your library usage changed in the past thirty years (if you've been alive that long!) I stopped using libraries when I was earning enough money to just buy books, and since I always seemed to take library books back late and incur fines, it actually worked out cheaper for me than borrowing them. But, I think we should still use libraries and in the last few years, even though I have almost 500 physical books at home I haven't read (yes, really) plus goodness knows how many on Kindle, I still borrow books from the library. I think it's the element of surprise. I go to take one back and as I walk through the library, I notice a book not on my wishlist which happens to be prominently placed and thus I notice it and realise it's eminently readable. So far this month I've picked up a John Boyne book, plus The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, an Ian Rankin novel and How The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. Now, the reason I haven't given you all of the information, is because I don't actually remember all of the titles or of the authors, and that would require leaving my comfy perch on the sofa and going to the bookcase to get them - and it's not important, anyway. What's important is I have picked up four random books, which incidentally I haven't started reading yet, as I am still on the new Sophie Hannah, The Carrier.

What's important is that libraries exist, don't get shut down and then are no longer available, particularly to those who need them - those who don't have the money for books. I didn't always have money to spend on books, and libraries were a treasure trove to me. Now I take the cherub, almost a year old now, to Bookbug or Rhymetime, and I see her love of books flourishing. I want libraries to exist when she is a teenager, an adult and a mum herself, so she can take her children there.

Of course, libraries also offer other valuable (to some) services: computer access, photocopying, faxing, and things like that. I have to say, though, I almost choked at the prices I had to pay for faxing a document to my solicitor a few years ago - but the least said about the better! Tomorrow I will choke on the price of photocopying documents, so much so I may well go and buy myself a scanner or a photocopier instead (yes, seriously). So, those services are not so well-viewed by me, but having a place where kids can come and congregate and learn nursery rhymes, about books and interact, yes I think that's valuable. We have a lot of books at home, even the baby has about seventy (yes, I know!) , but that doesn't mean she won't enjoy going to the library to see what the latest 'lift-the-flap' Spot book they have in, or discover new books there that she might love so much I end up buying them for her later.

The other thing I notice about libraries nowadays, or maybe it's just mine, is that librarians are actually very nice. Libraries are still quiet, but there is no fierce shushing as there was in the past by prim, bespectacled, formidable harridans. Or maybe they just can't berate a 41-year-old mother the way they did my teenage self.

Anyway, I'd loved to hear about your recent experiences of libraries, especially in the run-up to World Book Night. Do you use them? Why/why not? Favourite part?

Ooh, and the biggest libraries I've ever been in - so you get library envy: New York City library, the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the University of Glasgow library.

All those lovely books....aah...

Tune in next Monday for another book related post


  1. I love the library! I've found some valuable books for researching my own novels and I check out books on my Kindle through the library (as recently as two weeks ago). The great thing about that is when the books are due, they just drop out of your Kindle (no more late fees!). Viva libraries! :)

  2. I have a library addiction - even though there's a perfectly respectable (or out of control?) pile of books waiting to be read on my shelves and on my tablet, I still can't resist the lure of the library. We live in a rural area of France, and we have about 5 local (village) libraries that we've registered with: one is better on English-language books, one has a vast collection of BD, one has a fabulous children's section and so on. It's also a great way for the kids to read things which they then outgrow (or which they might not like) without committing to buying every single book, as we soon run out of money and space. So, hurray for libraries!

  3. I spend gobs of time at my little library. It is a home away from home, with a working fireplace! Thankfully my librarians are very nice and a rather groovy bunch of folk!