This may be the digital age with information being stored and accessed electronically, but we still need our public libraries. Books are still popular and always will be, but libraries now offer more than they ever did and fulfil a vital role in society, their facilities having expanded to accommodate new technologies and the changing needs of their patrons.
Joining your local library is free and gives you immediate access to a wealth of information and technology that may not be available to you elsewhere. Yes, there are books – lots of books! There are reference books, self-help books, picture books, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, fiction and non-fiction books, children’s books, biographies and journals. Audio books are also available. There are music CDs and DVDs too, and you can use the photocopier and fax machine. If all that wasn’t enough, membership of the library allows you to take advantage of their broadband and Wi-Fi and you can use their computers free of charge. There is help available for those wishing to improve their PC skills, and adaptive technology for the disabled.
Those content to catch up on the news the old-fashioned way can read the newspapers provided, while others might want to find out about services offered by their local council. Some people use their library to research local history, while many enjoy belonging to one of the groups that use the building as a venue for their weekly meetings. There are homework and storytelling clubs for children and help and advice on literacy for people of all ages. The library is a great place to find out about events that are happening in your local community and larger libraries also offer rooms you can hire for such activities.
Perhaps you are on a very low income, or you are an immigrant, and not able to access a computer at home or work? You may be unemployed and need help with typing up a CV and applying for jobs online. Or are you just a student looking for somewhere quiet to study? You may want to use the library’s archive services to do some research, or perhaps you want to listen to the latest audio book? It’s all there under one roof and fully trained staff are on hand to answer any questions you might have.
You will incur a small fine if your book, CD or DVD is not returned before the specified date, but renewal is easy and doesn’t have to be done in person. You can renew any borrowed item by phone or online at any time of the day or night.
We need our libraries more than ever now. Each one is a hub of information, recreation and technology that not only caters for its individual patrons, with all their diverse requirements, but also helps to bring the local community together. So, too, do our libraries need us. The more we use them, the more likely it is they will stay open.
So, why not visit your nearest library and discover for yourself that it isn’t just a building full of old books, or somewhere tramps go to get out of the rain, it’s also a treasury of knowledge, education and entertainment – and it needn’t cost you a penny!