Libraries are free public spaces. Think about what that means. A free open space for anybody to use and enjoy. Public space is sadly becoming more and more rare these days.
Note: I have learned a lot from taking books out of libraries, but here are some things I’ve learned from libraries themselves.
- A library is a perfect place to showcase stunning architectural design. I always marvel at the enormous entrance to the Central Library on Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, and fondly recall the Central Library in downtown Vancouver BC, modelled after the Roman Coliseum. Even smaller libraries have their charms.
- Libraries are about much more than borrowing books. You can: borrow CDs and DVDs; use computers for networking, research, or job searches; meet with a study group; find a quiet place to write on your laptop or tablet; access free professional research advice through a librarian; see a performance or art exhibit; connect with other like-minded readers.
- Library bathrooms are public. Yikes!
- Libraries are free public spaces. Think about what that means. A free open space for anybody to use and enjoy. Public space is sadly becoming more and more rare these days…I look to San Francisco’s privately-owned public open spaces (POPOS) as models for how we might look to expand public social space in our cities. That doesn’t mean we don’t still need libraries, though.
- There is a library in Toronto with a collection of beautiful children’s books from hundreds of years ago, as well as delicate and classic pop-up books. The library system in Australia holds the “greatest collection in the world of material relating to Australia.” Every library has a remarkable and unique collection that helps to archive and celebrate our shared history. A bookstore may have older popular books, but a library takes great pride in collecting and saving even the most obscure historical pieces.
- In Toronto, a library card is free. Renewals, searches, and holds can be done online and delivered to any branch you choose. Libraries contact you by phone or email (your preference) when your hold is ready. The system here is simple and incredibly easy to use.
- I will say it again. Librarians are your best research tool. A good librarian will have special knowledge, and can guide you through their area of expertise (or refer you to a better branch). Librarians are skilled, friendly, and smart.
- It used to be that you have to be quiet in libraries. Some places that is still the case; other places things are changing. I suspect that libraries will continue to separate truly quiet study space from more social spaces, and embrace their role as cultural and community hubs.
- I have spent many years not reading enough. This is changing, and a huge reason for this is my renewed use of my library card. I am reading more books thanks to my local library in the past few months than I was reading over the previous few years.
- From the recently-deceased literary giant Ray Bradbury:
When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.
Image of library courtesy of Shutterstock