(This article was originally posted on Feb. 26, 2014, but October is Canadian Library Month, and we wanted to remind people why the library is so important.)
Your library is changing. It might be the same building and the same people and have the same name, but the idea of “library” is completely different now. It’s not only a place to find books, and get information and attend programs. It’s so much more. The library is everything now…and the library is everywhere.
Who is the library?
Your library staff may not have changed much through the years, or it may be in constant flux. At our library, we’re beginning a new chapter, and it’s full of interesting ideas, people and ventures. But the library is not only its staff. The library is community partners, schools, local government, and most importantly, YOU. Without you, there wouldn’t be a need for the building, the books or the staff. So, we must always keep our patrons at the forefront when thinking about the library. We have to listen to what you want and try to anticipate what you might need. I think we do pretty well overall. The library is all of us.
What is the library?
Originally, the library was a place that housed books and stored information. It was a center of learning, a meeting place and a place to gather important records for posterity. The library was history, current events and imagination all in one. And it still is all of those things, but now it’s also much more.
- The library is a place to get books, magazines, audiobooks, ebooks, movies and music.
- The library is a place to access computers, usually for free. This not only means access to the internet, but an opportunity to use software to update your resume, search for your ancestors, do your homework or balance your chequebook.
- The library is a place to bring your wireless devices and access free Wi-Fi. Download movies, chat on Facebook with your friends or check your email.
- The library is a place to socialize. It’s warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. We have lots of programs where we invite you to come and spend time learning and meeting new people.
- The library is a place for programs. Babies, toddlers, pre-school, school age, tweens, teens, adults and seniors are all represented at the library. Looking for something different to do? Chances are, the library is offering up something fun!
- The library is a community space. Host a meeting, tutor some students, hold a birthday party or teach a class. You can do it all in our public meeting space.
- The library can help you with your future. Talk with people in a second language, take a course, research Universities, find books on subjects you’d like to know more about.
- The library can teach you about your past. Access Ancestry.com and research your family tree. Book time in the Genealogy room or talk with a resident expert on the subject. No idea where to start? We have a questionnaire to help, and we offer special one-on-one sessions to learn how to do it, based on the demand.
- The library is a place to go for help. We’re great at finding local information, matching people up with the correct community service and helping you figure out things like what day to put the trash out. We’re as good at finding your next great read as we are at listening to you vent about lack of parking in the public lot. And hopefully, you’ll always find us to be friendly, interested and full of great ideas.
- The library is literacy. Spend time in our Summer Reading program. Find a tutor to help with a second language. Start your children on the right path by coming to babytime or storytime. Read with your family.
- The library is entertainment! Attend a fun event during the summer. Take part in one of our children’s programs throughout the year. Stock up on DVDs to get through the long weekend. Take out an armload of books.
- The library supports local business. Did you know we buy some of our book selection from the local bookstore? How about those DVD’s we picked up in another shop in town. Participate in one of our fun events during the Bridge Street Bazaar or during Canada Day and you’ll find us encouraging you to visit many local businesses to see what they have to offer. Like us on Facebook…we have friends in the community, and you’ll find out what’s opening up or staging a special event. The library is everywhere.
Where is the library?
It might seem like an obvious question, but the library isn’t just that building in the center of town. The library is everywhere. It’s in your schools (with presentations and book visits), and it’s in your home (our online catalog is easy to access, and we have eBook and audiobook downloads, too). It’s in your car (plug in a CD or hook up your iPod or tablet to listen to a book on that long drive in), and it’s with you on vacation (bring sale books, stock up on downloads, pick up a movie before you go or access your account from the top of a mountain). Easiest of all, it’s on your phone (just download the OverDrive app, like us on Facebook, scan one of our QR codes and watch a book trailer, or send us a quick email…it’s all at your fingertips!)
When is the library?
Remember when you had to wait for the doors to open to access the library? Now, you can use the library 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Download books in your pajamas when you can’t sleep. Renew your books after we close in the evenings online. Visit our online catalog and place holds on books before you come in so they’re ready for you to pick up when you’re ready. The library is there during holidays, over the summer and most of all, on your schedule. While the physical doors might be locked, there are so many ways to access the library at all hours, you never need to go without information or books. Have a question about a library program or service? Need to know something about the community? Send us a message on Facebook or through the blog. We’re always checking our posts, and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can. Have an overdue book and can’t find your PIN? Give us a call and leave a message. We’ll renew it the next business day, no problem.
Why is the library?
We should probably rephrase the question to be “Why is the library still so relevant?” It’s not the intimidating place you once visited as a kid, where you had to tiptoe around. It’s not somewhere you have to go, but someplace you want to go. What other place in your community allows people from all walks of life, from infants to senior citizens, to go through the doors….for free……and participate in something interesting or fun or important? We’re hard-pressed to think of one.
Often, you’ll drop in an hear laughter pouring out of the children’s area, or people in hot discussion at the back tables. You might partake in a conversation with other patrons or staff at the front desk, or engage someone in the parking lot. Why is the library still a part of our society when everything can be accessed online? The easy answer is because the library is still about people. It’s about active conversation and ideas and programs. It’s about a physical building with community ties to engage you in something new. It’s about learning and trying new things. It’s about books and movies. It’s about access for people who might not have access anywhere else. It’s about the people that can afford programs, and the people that can’t. It’s about everyone, regardless of the job you have, where you live, your age or your beliefs. It’s a solid post in your community with access to the world.
How is the library?
This is one question that has to be answered in different ways. How is the library still available? How do we all have access to the library? How can we keep it going? In our community, we don’t charge fees to use the library (except for book fines, photocopies, room rentals and computer printouts). Our library is funded through community taxes, so in effect, if you live in our community, you fund the library. There are also other surrounding communities who help support our library, to ensure their residents also have access. We feel incredibly lucky to have a strong support system behind us, and we don’t take it for granted. But it’s not the same everywhere.
We can keep libraries open and running by visiting them, taking part in programs, donating to special events or fundraising efforts and accessing us online. Some of our patrons rarely come through our doors, but are active members by downloading eBooks or audiobooks, which also contributes to our statistics. We keep close ties with community groups and encourage them to visit our library…like the Sparks or Cub Scouts. We invite schools to bring classes so that they have access to a bigger selection of books, and in doing so, encourage a new generation of readers. And we stay fresh in the minds of our local government by participating and inviting them to use our facility whenever possible. It’s all about ties….to people, government and ideas.
The next time you hear someone say that libraries are becoming obsolete, think of all of the ways we use our libraries now, and how we could continue to use them in the future. They won’t disappear if we fight for them and make them an integral part of our communities. After all, the library is everywhere.
Update: Oct. 1, 2015
It’s been over a year since we posted this originally, and you may have noticed several new changes in the Carleton Place Public Library. We have new staff, new programs that now include adults, new catalog access that allows us to email our patrons reminder notices of items due soon, and new participation in community events. We’re also gearing up for an exciting new element that will change how we do things currently at the front desk…and we think you’re going to LOVE it!
Celebrate Canadian Library Month with us by letting us know what you love about your library. It will always be a vital part of the community, and we hope you think so, too.
(Photo: Monika Majkowska)