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… and get ourselves some books.
Wanted to do a little post to talk about why I love our local library services so much, and what my own library journey has been. Hope this inspires you to check out your own local services, they might surprise you!
My Library Journey
I think I’ve always been a bit library obsessed. As soon as I was old enough to return from school alone I always went to the big library at town on Thursdays, as it was late night opening. At that time the limit was 6 books, and pretty much every week I’d be changing my 6 books for new ones. I would go to the young adult section, see if there were any new Point Horror, or Sweet Valley High (my secret comfort reads!). See if there were any Terry Pratchett or Stephen King books I hadn’t tackled yet. I’d check the trolleys for stuff that had just come back but hadn’t been returned to its rightful place yet. If I couldn’t find a book I’d love using the little microfiche catalogue and seeing if it was due to be here. Albums were £1 for a week, so I’d often borrow something new to listen to. Sometimes I’d take a book and just sit in the Children’s section for a bit, have a read on a bean bag and watch people go by the windows on their way into the town centre.
As I grew up and moved around, I never lost this love. I went to Uni in Manchester, but before I started my course I went up and temped the summer before. As soon as I got there, I joined the library. I used to go to the Central Library in the centre of town, just huge! And CDs were 50p, so even cheaper than my hometown! When I started temping at a little area in East Manchester there wasn’t much to do at lunchtimes, the office was above a butcher in an (at that time) run down area. I was working for Manchester Council as part of the regeneration team working with the upcoming Commonwealth Games comittee, which was interesting work, but was clear that the area was in need of some love and support. One thing it did have was a library, so I would spend most lunchtimes there, reading and browsing.
Then was living near Chorlton for the time I was at Uni, so I could stop off on the way home in the centre of Chorlton and visit this very cute building. I would sometimes order books to come to it, as I didn’t always want to go all the way into town. I was studying Computer Science, but at Manchester University at that time the section relevant to my course in the University library was seriously lacking, and I didn’t need access to computers generally as there was always a Lab to duck into, so I think I only went their twice in the whole time I was there.
Now I live in Hertfordshire, and again I joined the library as soon as I could. There was a little library in the area I was in, and then the big library in town. The big library has the biggest collection of ‘normal’ books out of all these libraries that I’ve been a member of, which is surprising when you think that one of them is Manchester which is one of the biggest cities in the UK, but the fiction section in the central Manchester one was actually fairly small despite the building’s immense size. There is a coffee shop, soft play and cinema attached to the building here, so once I had my first child it was a great place for us to come. I would regularly attend free Rhyme Time sessions with the little one, then meet for coffee and chat after with friends. We moved out to a village, which was well served by a fortnightly library bus run by Lisa, which would come after school every other Wednesday. Often we would see the other children coming, especially during the summer reading challenge, and lots of the elderly that struggle to get into town, wanting their latest audiobook or large print book, they would be stacked in piles behind the little desk in that little bus ready for collection. Library cuts have forced the closure of this wonderful service, as well as a reduced bus service into town, and the government wonders why we have a problem with isolation and loneliness among the elderly. We now drive to a local village where a small but friendly library still operates.
Back in my hometown, there has been a real big change to the area where the library is. For years we were very limited in going out and eating options in Telford, but they just invested millions of pounds redoing the outside area where the library used to be. They knocked it all down and build a completely humongous library, which I’m so jealous of now. It has a Costa and has lots of nice technology things for kids to meddle with.
Reasons why I still use the library all the time (and why you should too!):
- Online library services – I have an app on my phone where I can renew books and order reservations to come to my library of choice. As soon as my eldest gets school suggested reading lists I like to go on a order a couple to come for her to read. Reservations are free for children which I very handy, and means I can just pick up books on the way home from work no problem.
- Summer reading challenge – every year our library does a reading challenge, the kids have to read 6 books and come and talk about them, they get stickers and a medal at the end, and a fun poster to stick the (smelly!) stickers on. My kids have loved doing this, we’ve done it almost every year since my eldest was 2.
- Children’s activities – Baby Rhyme Time, Toddler Tales, Story Time, meeting Authors, writing workshops, there is a tweens bookclub thing that I want my eldest to care more about. They do lots of (free) activities to get children engaged with reading
- Adult activities – craft mornings, slipper swap, IT sessions
- Computer Access – this is so important to preserve, there are some people for whatever reason that don’t have regular access to computers. You can go online, print things and access emails – these are all very necessary in modern life, especially applying for jobs and keeping your contact information up to date with government services etc. One real problem when you slip into poverty is things like Internet Access to apply for benefits etc. This is another reason why the government cutting library services and then forcing rigid communication rules upon claimants is cruel and unusual punishment. (Sorry, I keep saying these things, but it does make me a bit cross!)
- CreatorSpace – sadly our local ones are a bit far for me currently, but they have areas with 3D printers, coding workshops, Macs and PCs, Raspberry Pi’s, Digital cutters, sewing and embroidery machines… Sounds amazing and that I should be spending every weekend mooching there if I’m honest.
- Almost forgot my favourite bit! Online lending is now a brilliant thing. Our library uses BorrowBox and RBDigital to share titles. I can download eBooks, Audiobooks and (best bit) Magazines for free without having to worry about getting them back within a week! I’ve listened to a few titles on the Audiobooks, great to get a good range in a catalogue, although if you have particular titles in mind you may be disappointed (or have to wait a while). I love borrowing magazines, our library seems to have a really big range!
Hope this encourages someone to investigate their local library services! Let me know what you love about your local library, or let me know if I missed anything out!