Do they spark joy? Yes. So let’s cherish them.
Three in five people currently hold a library card, which is a pretty high figure considering the rate at which libraries are closing across the UK. At least 846 public libraries have closed since 2010, figures from library association Cilip reveal, with an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 library workers losing their jobs.
Yet libraries are to be cherished as a major form the foundations of community. For some, they’re a haven from the stresses of day-to-day life. For others, particularly the homeless and people in poverty, a lifeline to the world.
Working hard behind the scenes, there are people pushing to save our libraries. A petition by Frances Belbin is calling for the government to ring-fence funding for libraries, and it needs 100,000 signatures to be debated in parliament.
If you’re considering joining your local library, now is the time to do so. And if you need any more encouragement, here are seven reasons why you should.
1. Libraries are free.
Most libraries in the UK allow members of the general public to come and go as they like. You can go in, nestle down and read a book without being charged a penny. You can also take out a library card and borrow books for free – although you will inevitably face a fine for late returns.
2. They help us learn.
Imagine just how many books you have at your finger tips with a library card? There are lots of modern releases, as well as originals, and you can continue to expand your learning and vocabulary all the time – it’s a priceless experience, especially for kids, and also a great way to level the educational playing field.
3. They’re a good reason to get out of the house.
If you struggle with loneliness, poor mental health or you generally just feel stressed, libraries can provide a safe, quiet space – somewhere to find your inner calm. You can take comfort in the fact you’re surrounded by people with a shared purpose: getting lost in a good book.
4. They’re moving with the times.
If you haven’t been to a library since childhood, they’ve come on in leaps and bounds since then. A lot of libraries now have computers and allow people to borrow CDs and DVDs. Some libraries have apps so you can see when your books are due back and even reserve books in some cases (often for a fee).
There are also libraries which let you access books in digital formats on your Kindle – pretty cool.
5. They have a great sense of community.
Libraries are one of very few spaces left in towns and cities where members of the public can come together and actually be and feel like a community. The great thing is that a lot of libraries have noticeboards where you can find out about, and gain access to, other free services – for example, exercise classes or learning hubs. A lot of the time they’re free too.
6. They save us money long-term.
Obviously libraries help us save money as we’re borrowing books rather than going out and buying them. But did you know you can also borrow things like travel guides which, as long as you’re home in time to return them, is a very cost effective way to go about things. Lonely Planet guide books, for example, typically cost about £13 a pop. Think of the savings, people.
7. They take the pressure off reading crap books.
If you’ve spent your hard-earned cash on a book and you just can’t seem to get into it, chances are you’ll stick it out to the end anyway because you’ve parted with the cash and want to get your money’s worth. But with library books the pressure isn’t there. If the book isn’t gripping you, simply swap it for another, don’t waste your time. And you can borrow multiple books at any one time so even the most avid reader won’t be stuck for things to read.