Please… Love Your Library

Published September 23, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Indulge me in an off topic post tonight.  Though I’ll draw some threads back to fat acceptance somewhere in there, I promise you.

Some of you may already know that I am a librarian.  I don’t actually work in a library itself, but I work in head office of a large public library service (largest in the Southern Hemisphere to be precise) supporting the technology of our libraries.  But my heart belongs to libraries, both the services they provide and the environments they create.

So it breaks my heart to hear stories of libraries around the world either closing down, or taking furlough time so that they can stay open part time.  I notice this particularly in the US, but I am also hearing it happen in the rest of the world.

When I was a little girl and then later a teenager, and into my adulthood, libraries were my haven from the world.  Some time ago I wrote a post on my old blog – you can read it here if you like – about just how important libraries and librarians are to me.

My plea to you, dear readers, is to visit your local libraries.  Use them, explore them and fight for them.  Make it clear what you need from your libraries.  Don’t let them slide into oblivion in your town, because the politicians, the people with power and money don’t understand their significance to the community.  When looking at what it costs to run public facilities, libraries are inexpensive to run and maintain.  They take a mere fraction of the money that is spent on other public services.  However, their impact on a community is highly significant.  When a community has a healthy, well-used library, it shows that the community itself is healthy.  They’re like the frogs of a community!

Libraries provide more than just books to read and get information from.  Just looking at the services my own library service provides, I can list the following:

  • Early literacy resources, like baby, toddler and storytelling sessions.
  • Homework help for children and teens – especially useful for kids whose parents work long hours and might not be available or have the skills to help themselves
  • Creative outlets for all ages of the community – be it craft groups, writing groups, book clubs, photography classes, space for local artists to showcase their work among many other creativity services.
  • Access to books, magazines, DVD’s, CD’s, eBooks and audiobooks, newspapers and other materials for free or for a small fee – much more affordable than having to buy them.
  • Access to information databases – everything from genealogy, photographic collections, science and medicine, academic resources, literature and history, business, local laws and building codes, languages, world newspapers and many more.
  • Language collections.
  • Adult literacy services.
  • Meeting spaces for public groups and community groups.
  • Job search classes and services.
  • Internet/computer literacy classes.
  • Scanning facilities for photographs and documents.
  • Internet access for those who don’t have it at home.
  • Comic books and graphic novels.
  • Social help for kids and teens – after school and holiday activities are an excellent safe space for kids/teens to socialise as well as learn/participate.
  • Warm in winter and cool in summer – somewhere to escape the cold/heat.
  • Film nights, documentary screenings and public performances.
  • Many libraries now have news screens or sports screens now.
  • Gaming – most of ours have X-boxes.
  • And so much more.

Go to your library and join. TAKE YOUR KIDS TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY!  Write to your local politicians and tell them the importance of libraries.  If your library doesn’t offer the services you need, write them a friendly letter requesting the service, or pop in and talk to a librarian about how you can help start up that service.  Take your parents, neighbours, friends and other relatives to your local library.  I don’t know about your local library, but all of ours welcome you to bring a cup of coffee (a few even have coffee shops built into them!) and sit and read, either on your own or to your kids.

Not to mention that libraries are usually accessable, free (or very low cost) and very fat friendly – I’ve said before, librarians don’t care what you look like, we care that you’re reading and visiting the library.

Don’t let libraries die because politicians and people in power see them as a quick way to cut some budget.  Fight for your libraries because they are YOURS, and part of your community.

13 comments on “Please… Love Your Library

  • i love libaries. it was a librairan in high school that LITERALLY kept me from killing myself. it was the books suggested by observant librarians that allowed me to hide from the world, research my eating disorder, and learn to use the emerging technologies of the early 90s.

  • I have mailed this post, Heffalump, in its entirety, to the Enoch Pratt Free Library here in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. What you say is brilliant, and empassioned, and true.

    The head of our Library System is Dr. Carla Hayden. I know that she shares your understanding….

    @erylin — your post touches me deeply.

    Be well, everyone!

    Leslie N’shama

  • Good post Kath. I too am a lover of libraries. From early days at school where I spent each recess in the library helping shelve th books, tidy up etc. I used to go here as it was my safe place. Then sin high school we were enrolled in the public library for the first time. Boy how excited was I. 🙂
    I have been an avid reader all my life. In the past fe years when circumstances have seen me unable to access the library I was able to arrange with a staff member for her to collect books for me and put them away for me and I sent someone in to get them. Alas the past 6-9 months I have been unable to read much due to health issues. I do miss it and hope my ability to read returns- I do miss my friends.
    Kath you have a very important job, and I bet you love it.

  • This one really hits home, Kath.

    I’ve always adored bookstores and libraries. I remember well as a child being taken every week to the local library to find new wonders to read. And as I hit my teens, I discovered the audio section, too. I would go and choose a long novel and a couple albums (everything from Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell to The Firesign Theater) to try on for size.

    I used the library less myself as the years went by. Lack of transportation and a very full work schedule in a bookstore, mostly. I could actually borrow books from work and I had a lovely employee discount, as well. Still, I supported the library and sent people there all the time.

    When I married Mr. Twistie and moved to his hometown (where we still live), the library situation was sad. We had an original Carnegie library, which is a beautiful piece of architecture… but far too small to meet the needs of the community it serves and it was in desperate need of earthquake retrofitting. It was 1993, and there had been a campaign to renovate the old library and build a new one that would serve more people for some ten years at that point. In fact, about five years before I moved here, the voters had passed a measure to fund the building of a new library. A tiny, well-funded, loud group of dissenters, however, had managed to get the entire project shelved. Political corruption: it’s not just for big cities anymore!

    The fight went on and on and on. Mr. Twistie and I attended City Council meetings to show our support for a new library. We talked to our friends and to complete strangers about it. We publicly proclaimed our absolute willingness to pay a bit more in taxes to pay for such a vital public service. I will never forget one of those City Council meetings where a woman got up to speak against the new library. Her reasoning? Her children were out of school and didn’t need it for homework research anymore, so nobody needed it at all. Seriously, she presented this as self-evident and irrefutable fact.

    Eventually the matter got settled while we had a mayor who was actually about getting things done and serving the whole populace of our Island Paradise. Alas, he died before the project was completed. Still, the old Carnegie library is now a branch, and there’s a shiny new library a few blocks away right in the heart of downtown with room for enough books, etc. for now and outfitted with computers with internet access that people can use. It even has a couple of small rooms for groups to meet in. Best of all? It replaces the seedy, hooker and drug dealer-infested motel the city had wound up owning right across the street from the police station. That was a public embarrassment!

  • Yes!Yes!Yes! (Frequent lurker here.) Libraries give me hope for the world. The fact that I can go in, rent any book I want, and be trusted to bring it back, I am happy to pay taxes to go to libraries. It’s inexpensive entertainment, and pretty much endless.

  • I live in Brisbane and am hoping that is where you work.

    If so, please know that I adore our library system. My husband, kids and I consider our Saturday visit to the library to be an integral part of every weekend.

    Your work, and the work of every single person connected to the Library system enriches our life every day. I see so many people in the library researching, working, learning, connecting, finding community and simply being amused in our libraries. You open up the world to both adults and children. You bring so much happiness to so many lives.

    I am sick at heart that other communities are losing libraries. It seems such a senseless way to save money and such an indictment of systems that don’t value learning. Then a cynical part of me starts to wonder if it doesn’t suit the powers that be to reduce communities and stifle learning…

    Anyway, thanks to you and your colleagues. Also love this whole blog!

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