Libraries have a unique and fundamental role within communities. Working as a Library Services Assistant at the best of times, let alone in a pandemic, means that I’m constantly reminded of this fact. As a reader of this blog, you’re probably aware of some of the more obvious aspects of libraries but, as the demand for more and more public services to justify their position in society has grown, libraries have adapted. Below, I have listed some of the more wide-ranging services that libraries offer to the public. To me, and many others, they have become essential to the wellbeing and growth of society
- They give some of the most financially vulnerable in our society access to FREE resources. As well as books, many public libraries offer use of computers and access to the internet. Whilst printing can come at a charge libraries give children, that don’t have access to ICT facilities at home, the chance to print their homework off at no cost.
- They encourage social interaction and combat loneliness, especially within older age groups. Even when the library was closed to the public, in the first lockdown, many of our regular users rang up simply to have a chat. I learned that for many of them, coming into the library and chatting to staff was the only social interaction they had on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, many libraries have a bookmobile service to deliver books to those in rural areas and volunteer initiatives to give housebound people access to library materials. These services have helped many people feel less isolated, especially during the pandemic.
- Libraries can be designated ‘safe spaces’ for those that need it. A big part of creating these safe spaces is by promoting inclusivity. Whether it’s celebrating Black History Month or Pride, the library is designed to be accommodating to all.
- The educational value of libraries is pretty obvious in the fact that they give free access to books, however many community libraries also offer opportunities for learning. These activities are usually not restricted to those of a certain age and are multigenerational. From reading groups for children to classes for those that are less confident with using technology, libraries facilitate all kinds of accessible learning.
I could go on, but the list above demonstrates some of the essential services that libraries have to offer. I hope that they will encourage you, if you’re not already, to pay your local libraries a visit in support of the work they do.