As noted by author Jim Trelease in his bestselling book The Read–Aloud Handbook, quoting a committee member of the Family Reading Partnership in New York, “People who use libraries use them, not because they don’t have books, but because they have them and want even more.” So true.
Whenever I move to a new town, I orient myself by these anchor points: closest grocery store, nearest gas station, closest Catholic Church, and nearest local library. I’m fortunate that my local government invests tax dollars into improving its local library system. I feel that it is money well spent to foster a culture of readers.
So, to spread the library love, I’ve compiled my top 10 list of why local libraries are awesome:
1. It’s Free! – This one bears repeating…it’s free!
2. Libraries are still the authority for reference material – As much as people think Wikipedia is the authority for factual information, it’s not. I never have to second guess the quality of research material at a library.
3. Libraries teach common courtesy and responsibility – Libraries seem like a sanctuary in a world where people impose their cell phone conversations on me in public spaces. It’s nice to be in a place where you are generally supposed to mind your manners. Libraries also help kids learn responsibility of taking care of other people’s property and returning it on time (or else face a hefty late fine, which seems to have increased with the rate of inflation).
4. Diversity of library users – Walk into a community library and you’ll see people of all age ranges, from the tiniest tot to the near-sighted elderly citizen scanning a newspaper.
5. Treasure trove of magazines and newspapers – Whether I need a dose of brain candy with the latest People magazine, or I desire to stay up-to-date on trends with Publisher’s Weekly, my library doesn’t fail.
6. DVDs and Audiobooks – Need a work out DVD? Movie for the kids? Something to listen to on that long spring-break drive to the beach? Just whip out your library card and you’re all set.
7. Engaging Children’s Programs – My local library offers puppet shows, magic shows, story hour, and even a program for kids to read-aloud to trained “companion” dogs (even dogs like a good book).
8. Interesting Adult Series – I don’t have to go far for culture or events in the form of poetry readings, lectures, author-signing, or even interesting contests (like creating books into 3D multi-media art).
9. Libraries have gone digital – Welcome to the 21st century. My local library is plugged in with computers for personal use, digital look up by subject/title/author, digital checkout, and they even offer ebook borrowing online.
10. Study carrels – Okay, this is on my list for nostalgic purposes. But lately, I’ve been wishing I had two of these isolationist desks at home for my highly-distracted daughters.
11. Here is a bonus item for reading my list – Libraries are excellent places to hang out in the boiling-hot, dog days of summer!
So far my younger daughter has inherited my love of libraries and books. I have to limit her to 10 borrowed books in one trip. Meanwhile, my older daughter ranks a visit to the library equally to a visit to the dentist. She will gravitate toward the computers and poke around on educational online games. But I’m hoping eventually she’ll notice the books surrounding her and actually pick out one herself without my guidance.
With three accessible library branches in my community, I feel I hit the jackpot. Plus it makes it very convenient when I have to return a library book during “Return the Borrowed Book Week,” or in my case, any week. So if you are long overdue for a visit to your community library (pun intended), I highly suggest a trip sometime soon. You never know, you just might fall in love.