Everyone knows what a library is. But not everybody goes into them. This can be for a variety of reasons – you may be nervous, shy, unaware that they’re there, think you don’t need them, think they’re boring or whatever.
Sorry but that’s all wrong.
You need them. Even when you don’t think you need a library yourself, you need one in your community. Libraries empower the community to better themselves. They provide an open, safe and non-judgemental environment. Libraries are one of our greatest inventions – and they’re also one of the most powerful. Where else can you enter a thousand worlds and learn a thousand things all for free? Check out the #savelibraries hashtag on Twitter for an inspirational stream of reasons to love libraries.
So here’s my beginners guide to libraries.
1. Libraries are here for you. And the people who work there are not doing it for the money. Unless they’re in a managerial / supervisory role / qualified librarians, the likelihood is that they’re earning peanuts. So they’re not there because it’s a financially fabulous position. They’re there because they believe in literature, in education, in information and in the power of literacy. Use these people. Librarians (and sidebar, this also includes the person who runs the staff canteen) are some of the greatest allies you can have. They will reccomend titles to your kids. Point you in the direction of the latest dvds. Help you out with the kids homework topics. Say hi to you when you walk in. Provide a friendly face to the people who don’t have anybody to smile at them or anybody left who knows their name.
2. If the staff don’t do any of the above, or look at you with disdain, you can complain. Write to the council. Tell them. This is your service and you deserve better. And yes, I’ve worked in public and private libraries and complained myself. I have certain standards of the library service that I provide and particularly in public libraries, I was always aware that YOU are paying me. So I did my job to the utmost because I took pride in it and I expect that pride and passion from others that I meet in the world of libraries. You should expect the same.
3. Take your kids in. Be respectful of the other users but don’t treat it as a hallowed space. Libraries are for the public and the public includes children. Don’t force them to take a book home. Use the library. Make it part of your everyday routine. Make it the norm. Say hi to the library staff. Get your kids signed up. Tell them their names. These people will look after your kids in this environment. They’re not babysitters so don’t ever leave your children by themselves. But a good library assistant will have a chat with your kids, treat them as equals, ask them what they’re interested in, go “Oh, yeah, Pokemon, we’ve got some brilliant books, see I’ll show you and your Mum where they are, shall I?..”
And if you’ve never been before, February 5th would be a great time to start…