This week is focused on a simple resource you probably have in your community, but may not be utilizing. Your public library.
My DD and I then went to our county library yesterday. We used to go the library once or twice a week before she started school, but we’ve not been going as much in the past year and a half or so. I’ve missed it. I love the library. I have talked about it in a previous Sunday post (over a year and a half ago) and nothing has really changed. I realize that some people have not been library goers for their entire lives (my mom started me quite young), so I thought I would share my top five reasons (there are so many) to visit your local library and check it out:
First, it is FREE! No strings attached (other than meeting return deadlines). No free today, but your credit card will be charged in four weeks and for the remainder of your natural life. Every library offers slightly different services, but our library has movies, audio CDs, ebooks, book clubs, activities for kids, etc. It is worth checking out what your library has to offer.
Second, it is quiet. Well, relatively. If you need a place to escape to where you don’t have to purchase a $5 coffee and listen to the person at the next table talk about their upcoming visit from in-laws on their cell phone, this is a good spot. You can’t eat and drink in the library at ours, but they have a great grassy area just to the side of the library that makes for good picnicking and some libraries have rooms where you can eat and drink.
Third, it is constantly changing. Much like the local bookstore, but without the price tags, our library is constantly changing up the books on it’s front tables. It has art work that changes every few months. It offers new selections constantly and often has new activities to try out (we have a knitting group, a book club, a chess club for teens, family movies on Sunday afternoons – with popcorn). I am always curious to see what they have and what they have going on.
Fourth, and this is parent-specific, your kids can look at books, play with toys and use a computer without you having to worry about buying it later! BONUS: Other adults are there too! I have tried to teach my daughter that we don’t need to buy something every time we go to a store. And we often don’t. But, it is always a battle. At the library, when she finds a book she really likes, I can feel good about saying, “let’s get it”. I can also feel good about bringing it back when she has read it and will never look at it again! Our library has blocks, felt boards, puppet theater with puppets, etc. It is air conditioned, so in the hot months, it is a great alternative to the park. They have coloring sheets and crayons and pencils. And usually, you can find a friendly adult to chat with while your kids play. It feels safe. It feels comfortable (I’m not constantly fretting about what she can and can touch). It is enjoyable without costing a penny. I can sit and read a book myself, or look at magazines, or even work on something and she is in a safe, cool space.
Fifth and most important, it helps to keep much-needed public spaces available in our communities. When the big bookstores came to town, a lot of libraries struggled to prove their need in the communities. Funding was cut. Hours were cut. And if people don’t use these services, demonstrating that the community supports and NEEDS these services, the cuts will continue. We are lucky to have a supportive community, so our library is actually expanding hours back in the Fall (they had made significant cuts a while back). Public spaces that offer resources for everyone are important to me. Although I can afford to go to Barnes and Noble or shop online at Amazon to buy my daughter books (we actually buy quite a few at thrift stores, because reuse, recycle, etc.), I want every child, no matter what their financial circumstances to be able to access books and literacy programs and a space that is inviting and encouraging of reading. I also want adults who do not have computers in their homes to have access to those resources. My parents used the public library computers for a dozen years, never choosing to have a computer in their home. Many seniors and homeless individuals use the computers at the library to get access to needed resources.
Public spaces can be scary. After all, they are so, well, public. Homeless people do use the library much more often than Barnes and Noble (although, sometimes they are in the cafe there). And to some people, that is a bad thing. But, to me, this is reality. And facing the individuals in our communities who are not thriving hopefully will help us remain a community rather than being divided by social class. We have prided ourselves on NOT being a society based on class division, but we have created these consumerist walls of division between those of us who can participate in that consumerist lifestyle and those who can’t/don’t. I think that doing more to create community through our public spaces is important. And if homeless people abuse the public space, they should be removed (and hopefully provided with the help they need, although that is another area of funding that has gone to the wayside in recent decades – our mental health services have collapsed, but I will leave that for another post), but just because they may not be dressed as nice as we are or smell as good as we do or have their hair styled does not mean they don’t deserve to be recognized and served as the humans they are. I like that the public library provides a space for all of use to coexist.