According to the government of Ontario (2010), community hubs “make it easier for local residents to access the health, social, cultural, recreational and other resources they need together in one spot. It can be located in a physical building or accessed through a digital service…whether in a high-density urban neighbourhood or an isolated rural community, each hub is as unique as the community it serves and is defined by local needs, services and resources”. The local library is considered a vital hub for many communities. And, I can can attest to this, because my local library was an essential part of my childhood. As a child, going to the library provided me with my first real taste of autonomy. It was free (which mattered, because my parents could not afford the high cost of most extra curricular activities) and I was allowed to go there on my own. Also, the librarian treated me like an adult. He recommended books based on my preferences. And, unlike my parents, he never questioned my reading choices (i.e. at age seven I went through a phase where I only read Sidney Sheldon or Harlequin romance novels). Also, while I had no major issues at home, I wanted the library to be my home. I would sit there for hours, perusing their books and magazines (or just daydreaming). As a child, this was a space that I could make my own.
Though I can’t recall when it happened, I did eventually stop going to the library. And, later on with access to Google and Indigo I no longer felt compelled to go back. This changed over the last two months though. After meeting a friend for lunch she asked me to stop at the library with her. She wanted to pick up a video for her daughter. Once inside the library, I fondly recalled my childhood, and my time spent at the library. Following that experience, I updated my library card (the one from 1998). And, I am now excited to visit (and support) the library again. Here are four reasons why:
- When I need to “temporarily” escape my home, the library has become an alternative to the coffee shop. And, I don’t need to purchase something in order to stay at the library. Also, most libraries now allow you to eat and drink.
- The library is budget friendly (books are free). So, I don’t have to waste money purchasing books from Indigo anymore (or as much). This means that I now have fewer opportunities to purchase the addictive tchotchkes, displayed beside the books.
- Some libraries now boast 3D printing machines that members can pay a minimal fee to use. I can’t wait to try it (if only once).
- The library is a community hub, that supports the local community (what’s not to like about that). Among other things, the library supports the community in the following ways:
- Provides space for meetings and events. Local groups and smaller organizations/ businesses can rent space at affordable rates.
- Hosts free (or affordable) local events (i.e. reading groups for kids, speaker series for adults, etc.).
- Hosts wonderful volunteer positions and program opportunities, for children, youth and adults. It’s a wonderful community centre.
- Provides computer and internet access. This makes a tangible difference for families living below the poverty line – or barely above it. More businesses are moving their services online (i.e. posting bills online, posting government applications online, posting jobs online, etc.), making access to a computer and the internet a modern necessity.
Here are some additional articles (by other authors) related to this topic:
- Open to All? The Public Library and Social Exclusion
- Do libraries still matter?
- Envisioning the library of the future, Phase 3: Understanding what young people value about libraries
- Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading, and daydreaming