Up the block from my house is our neighborhood library. It is a small but classic 1930s building with high windows and a broad entry staircase. The old oak counter and tables are well worn from use, but the current book posters, computer stations, and children’s nook are fresh and contemporary. The meeting room gets used by various groups, local authors come to read their books aloud, and people come in to read the newspapers. Savvy students learn that the librarians can help them find resources. Steeped in the tradition of “old school” libraries, it has quietly been a vital part of the community for decades, despite the fact that budget cuts have shrunk both the hours of operation and the staffing levels.
In contrast, our new county library is just a short drive away. It is sprawling, comfortable, and very modern. There are several social areas, activities for people of all ages, the computer labs are slick and bustling with users, and meeting rooms of many sizes are scattered throughout. A full-service coffee shop is on-site. The overstuffed upholstered chairs invite you to take a load off, and the metal and wood shelves tempt you with books, trade journals, and periodicals. A large staff of librarians is ready to help you with the technology, the copy services, or any research project you are diving into. Here, instead of the “hallowed hall” image of a library, is a coffee shop and living room vibe, where people can linger for hours.
Libraries are so much more than a collection of resources. They are community anchors and can offer individuals a quiet refuge or bring people together. Despite the explosion of e-books, e-readers, and online reference materials, libraries are still leaders in supplying print and digital information. They adapt with the times, as shown by the popularity of checking out digital books as well as print copies.
The libraries in our communities are very diverse. They may be school libraries, large public libraries, specialty libraries for a given topic, or even private libraries. But they all serve as community hubs, as places to find inspiration or research a project. They all provide an unspoken promise that something inside will capture your interest and entertain or enlighten you. What a glorious thing to have in any neighborhood.
Why not visit your local library during February, National Library Lovers Month, and let the staff know that you love your library! While you are there, use the resources to learn more about other celebrations this month. Perhaps you will find a good read for Black History Month, also in February. You might check out the audio resources of bird-calls, for National Bird-Feeding Month. American Heart Month or International Friendship Month are February events as well. Or find a great book for the NEA’s Read Across America Day on March 1, 2013.
What do you love about your library?
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