I love libraries. Just walking into a library gives me a sense of peace. They are quiet, yet hum with the potential of all the books waiting for me. Libraries smell of knowledge. Rows and rows of books surround me, embracing me in their sanctuary. Libraries hold the promise of escape—yet feel like home.
In today’s world, libraries are under attack as budgets get slashed and people question if libraries are still relevant. Are they still needed? Do they still provide any value?
People who ask those questions cannot have not been to a library recently. I spend several days a week in my wonderful local library, Burlington County Headquarters, while my daughter is in school. Every single morning, there is a line waiting for the doors to open. Every. Single. Morning.
As we enter the library, these people fan out. Some are seeking entertainment, some head for the non-fiction, and some make a beeline for the computers. They all take advantage of the wealth found in libraries—the wealth of entertainment, of information, and of access.
Those of us lucky enough to have Internet at home forget that there are people who do not have this luxury. And yet, the Internet is a vital source of information, of connection, and of employment in today’s world. People who do not have the Internet at home cannot stay connected with others as easily, they cannot apply for jobs as easily, they cannot find information on health or other issues easily. The library is a vital connection to the 21st century for these people.
The library is a safe haven for many people. Children of all ages from baby to teen are welcomed—indeed, they have their own space. In my library, there is an entire room for YA, and another large area for middle grade and below. New renovations to the library have added a wonderful small amphitheater for Story Time. Where else can a group of wiggly three- and four-year-olds find enthusiastic welcome and engagement—for free?
I often also see a group of mentally and physically disabled adults come into the library. Some of them make inappropriate noises. Some of them are too social. Some stare at people. I’m sure that in our society, unfortunately, this group would not be welcome in many settings. Yet here they can enjoy a secure yet stimulating environment.
One of the most attractive things about libraries, to me, is this sense of welcome—of the open door for all. It doesn’t matter if you are wealthy or poor, old or young—everyone is welcome here. The renovations at my library have also added more meeting rooms, so they can accommodate more community groups, thus welcoming even more people into the fold.
The staff, of course, is the lynchpin of this sense of welcome. Without a friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff, a library is nothing more than a warehouse for books. The staff at my library is unfailingly helpful, always willing to look things up, to lead you to the section you want. If they don’t have what you need, they will search to see who does have it. If no one has it, they will try to buy books to cover the topic. They go the extra mile, and they do it all with a smile and genuine good will. They are why I love my library!
So for people who think libraries are irrelevant, go visit one. See all the people they serve. See how many needs they fill. See how hard the staff works to make their library an asset to their particular community. See the children they imbue with a love of reading, the teens they help connect to books addressing issues they face, the adults they give computer access to so they can find a better future.
Come and see. They’ll welcome you. Then, please, share the wealth.
Why do you love your library? Brag about them in the comments