Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Monday Soapbox: My Passion for Libraries

I LOVE libraries! There, I’ve said it.
It ought to be on a billboard, in neon or blinking from the Goodyear blimp. On a bumper sticker: I heart libraries. *blissful sigh*
Here’s a secret– I go to the library more often than I go to the grocery store. Obviously, I believe in the old adage that “man cannot live by bread alone”.
To me, libraries are places of possibilities. You can learn something that can change your life or just make it more pleasant, you can read old newspapers or magazines and travel back in time. You can look at a map or an oversized book of a far away land or one that only exists in someone’s imagination. You can find strange music, obscure movies, authors you never heard of, each can open your mind and make you think of things that never occurred to you. A library is like a treasure chest, just waiting to be opened. And best of all, everything in it is free!
In the U.S., it doesn’t cost anything to get a library card, which allows the holder to take out numerous books, CDs, videos, magazines and newspapers and keep them for several weeks. After that, one can usually renew those items to keep them longer. If a library doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they can order it from another local library or one elsewhere in the state. A poor nobody has as much access to everything as a rich well-connected person, the egalitarian spirit of libraries is to be admired.
Those who work in libraries are a type of guardian. They guard the treasures of the past, especially when authors donate their papers and correspondence or where there are actual old books and documents, sometimes centuries old. Librarians also guard your freedom to read, as the annual “Read a Banned Book” week shows. Or the fact that most libraries resist any form of censorship on their computers. So instead of the stereotype of a timid woman with a bun, librarians ought to really be portrayed with armor, defending your rights.
On a more personal level, I registered to vote at a library and taught myself to use a computer in one. I often hid from bullies in the school library and got materials there to block out the anxiety caused by my dysfunctional family, making libraries a literal sanctuary for me. To this day, whenever I bring home a stack of library books, it feels like I’ve got a bakery box of pastries and I can’t wait to gobble them up.
So forgive me for all of the gushing enthusiasm about the subject, it’s hard to control my passion for libraries. But I’d wager if you’re reading this, then you must have some warm feelings for libraries yourself.

Nifty graphic from Plattsburgh schools

12 comments on “Monday Soapbox: My Passion for Libraries

  1. annebrooke
    August 23, 2010

    Lovely article, Jackie! When I was young, we used to go to the library 2 or 3 times a week as an outing – it was grand! That’s how I managed to read all of Dance to the Music of Time (but in the wrong order, as it depended what was on the shelves at the time) as a young teenager 🙂 Hmm, explains a lot really …

    I also love the fact that my local library has started lending ebooks – fabulous! That’s great news for a keen e-reader like me. And I don’t even have to get off my seat to borrow one, lazy me.


  2. Hilary
    August 23, 2010

    Jackie, that’s a fabulous article! I’ve spent my working life in public libraries, and I’d be hard pressed to encapsulate all that Libraries mean to the people that use them with such concision and passion. I definitely think this is one for me to cut out and keep, at a time when so many voices are out there saying that public libraries have had their day. Do you mind if I shamelessly quote you? 🙂

    Anne – channelling you again. Did you, like me, see a book with the title ‘Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant’ on the shelves, and knew you had to read it?

    Oh, and that graphic was the logo for a promotional campaign for libraries about 4-5 years ago in the UK. I seem to remember wearing a tee-shirt with it. I wish I thought it would still fit me. *Sigh*.

  3. Anne Brooke
    August 23, 2010

    Hilary – can’t say that I have, but it sounds fascinating!! 🙂

  4. Lib
    August 23, 2010

    I love libraries too – I can’t always sustain my appetite for books because it’s too expensive, so I borrow books from the library – I have to confess I’m not always very fast at returning them though!
    I used to work in a library. Felt very frustrated because you were not allowed to read on work hours, but I loved being able to borrow any number of books I wanted!!

  5. rosyb
    August 23, 2010

    A lot of people I know have started to use libraries more recently and been raving about how they are reading much better books! Mine has rather annoying opening hours – it doesn’t seem too geared up for anyone wanting to go outside work hours or at the weekends which I really can’t understand. They can be such hubs of community too – it is now not allowed for local places in the main to put up information leaflets about what’s going on in an area or helpful groups and societies and when you walk into a library – there it all is. I recently went to a writers’ talk/event in a library in quite a disadvantaged area – the library was beautiful and the event was absolutely mobbed. A lot of the audience were talking about how great it was to get the writers there. It was one of the best events of its kind I’ve been to and shows there is such an appetite out there all over the place and it’s a crying shame if even less access is given to people to get hold of books and all the other resources libraries contain. Not everyone can afford books and not everyone has easy access to internet, or talks or information that libraries contain.

  6. Nikki
    August 25, 2010

    For some reason during secondary school I stopped using the local library. I think because it was easier to use the school one and with GCSEs I didn’t have much free time. By the time I’d left, I’d lost my library card (!!) and the habit and became a buyer of books – both new and second-hand. This continued through college and university, though I was an avid user of their libraries, I never returned to my local. Then suddenly, last year, unemployed and bookless, I remembered the library. Yes, there’s nothing like a brand new stack of books for Christmas or your birthday, but these days I rarely buy a book (unless I’ve read it at the library and loved it so much I had to have it). The library has got me through a long period of miserable and boring unemployment and several train or bus journeys. Libraries – I salute you!

  7. sharonrob
    August 25, 2010

    Although I’m an enthusiastic buyer of books and love to have my own copy of those I’m especially fond of, I would hate to live in a world without libraries. Like other people here, I grew up with them as part of my childhood – we couldn’t afford many books, and the library fed my voracious appetite for them. I’d hate to think that future generations of little bookworms (or older ones for that matter) might be deprived of this precious resource. A love of books is one of the most important things one generation can pass onto another, aside from the educational advantages to children and the practical benefits to frazzled parents. When I was a bookish child, I could be left to my own devices for hours at a time – unlike my sister, who wasn’t interested and relied on other people to amuse her.

    Of course, it isn’t just children who benefit from libraries. Every year, it becomes harder to function in the modern world without internet access, but not everybody has it at home. The cost of audio-books, especially unabridged ones, is far beyond many people’s budgets, but libraries have them. Many people don’t have the money for the latest Terry Pratchett or Hilary Mantel novel, but the library has it and although you’ll probably have to get in line, anticipation can be part of the pleasure.

  8. SamRuddock
    August 25, 2010

    What a fantastic soapbox, Jackie. Its the most passionate and well-argued defence for libraries that I’ve ever read. It’s a real privilege to hear your personal relationship with libraries over the years and makes me want to run out and hug my nearest library!

    What often gets me worked up about libraries is the way some people think they are all about the books and nothing else, which is just not the case. I woke up yesterday to a news article about moving libraries to supermarkets, pubs, and the like and couldn’t help shouting at the TV that it is committed librarians that make a library. Libraries are about providing access to information, librarians are the brokers of this information. Without internet access, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, displays, book clubs, specific collections etc etc etc a shelf of books is no longer a library and that would be a huge shame.

    One thing I think is interesting is the difference between libraries in the US and the UK. I don’t want to make sweeping statements but it does sound to me that libraries are valued more there than here. The fact that you can borrow anything free there (here DVDs and CDs cost money, and requesting a book that is not in stock does too) is a testament to that, as is the prominance of a number of librarians. Megan often comments on how wonderful libraries are in the States and how (despite being a librarian here) she wishes libraries here were more like they are there.

    Personally, I haven’t used a library for a long time for anything other than to attend talks. That is solely because I can’t bear the thought of having to give back a book I’ve read and I’m with you in love of libraries, even if my love is more theoretical than practical.

  9. kirstyjane
    August 26, 2010

    Fantastic article, Jackie – libraries need more advocates like you. Thank you for telling us about your passion.

  10. Lisa
    August 26, 2010

    Brilliant, Jackie. I feel like printing this out and taking it in to my local library. Bravo!

  11. fauquet
    September 5, 2010

    A library is not a desert island since it is open to everyone but it is an island of a thousand trésors to discover and enjoy. Your text is really convincing , Jackie.
    In friendship

  12. Pingback: Save Our Libraries: Theresa Breslin tells us why it’s so important « Vulpes Libris

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This entry was posted on August 23, 2010 by in Entries by Jackie, Thursday Soapbox.



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