What Do You Love Most About Libraries?

When I was a kid, I spent hours each week in local libraries. We would go there as a family to pick out books and attend events. The local library was a hub for school buses–they dropped us off there, and that’s where my mom picked us up. I also volunteered for 70 hours at the county library, mostly helping out with data entry, but learning a lot about the business side of libraries in the process.

I continue to love reading, but ever since the Kindle was released 10+ years ago, the vast majority of the books I read are purchased or borrowed on the Kindle. This removed my primary motivation for visiting the library…or so I thought.

In a recent interview, author and podcaster Malcolm Gladwell answered a question about the purpose of libraries in the internet age. He pointed out that libraries are so much better than the internet at browsing and stumbling upon the unexpected.

Libraries are, of course, more than just books. At many libraries you’ll find magazines, movies, games, even shareable tools like 3D printers. Plus, librarians!

I was reminded of all this recently when I visited a local library to use yet another service I wasn’t aware that libraries sometimes provide: notary publics. I wasn’t there for long, but standing there in the serenity of the library surrounded by books made me want to return. I miss skimming through titles and pages; I miss the quiet calm of a library.

I now look forward to visiting my local library from time to time. What do you love most about libraries?

3 thoughts on “What Do You Love Most About Libraries?”

  1. I love love love taking my kids to the library. We’ve been going to the downtown Central branch of the St Louis Public Library system since they were babies. There has been some turnover, but some of the librarians have been there for those 10 years and get to interact with the kids at each age. We come home with bags of books, like 40 or more at a time, and they have the most peaceful couple hours of their week on those afternoons. I love the serendipity of shelf connections (which you also point out), and the quiet open feeling of high ceilings and boundless knowledge. I love requesting things from the stacks and finding a first edition with amazing illustrations pop into my hands from the librarian who is happy to share. You asked for what we love most, but I love the library too much to name one thing only. I grew up going to the library, and I worked in Interlibrary Loan in college for a year. I’m such a forever fan of what libraries are and what they offer. I highly recommend Susan Orleans’ The Library Book.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing, Susannah! It’s neat that some of the librarians have been there for the entirety of your kids’ lives. I’m going to check out that book!

      Reply
  2. I think libraries are one of the last great frontiers of community centers. Many neighborhoods or towns don’t have other places to gather, explore, relax, bump into each other, learn, etc. They provide so much more than books now, as you point out, including helping to bridge the digital divide with free wifi hotspots and laptops and in-person computers and fancy programs and printing and classes, they often serve to get folks formerly incarcerated back in the mix, teaching kids so much about literacy and love of reading but also socialization (so many free programs!). I just think they’re doing incredible work that’s very much needed.

    All this AND all the things you said above about books 🙂

    Reply

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