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Reading Connects the World: My Top Four International Libraries

It’s no secret to anybody who has read my work before that, like the majority of bibliophiles, I adore libraries. Whilst visiting various cities and villages around the UK I have always taken the chance to visit their libraries, one of which I ended up working at. This desire to visit such public institutions hasn’t been limited to my time travelling around the UK and pre-pandemic I started planning trips abroad. Along with museums and art galleries, historical houses and theatres, libraries were present on my bucket list of things to see. Unfortunately, like many of you, my plans were derailed by the Coronavirus outbreak. Whilst my plans to visit such wonderful educational institutions have been put on hold, I’m choosing to remain optimistic about the next few years. Below I have listed the top five libraries that I would like to visit once we return to a new state of normal.

The Admont Library- Austria

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The Admont Library- Photo by Jorge Royan

Situated in the Benedictine Monastery of Admont Abbey is the world’s largest monastery library. Designed in 1764 and constructed by Josef Hueber (1715–1787), the building was completed in the late baroque style in 1776. It’s seven ceilings were painted by then 80-year-old Bartolomeo Altomonte (1694–1783) who specialised in large scale frescoes in 1775. These murals were painted to depict the close relationship between religion and the arts and sciences. Furthermore, Josef Stammel’s (1695–1765) limewood carvings ‘The Four Last Things’ situated at different points within the library mark a great distinction from the light an airy feel of the murals. In Christian theology they represent the last stages of a man’s life: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. Amongst all of this impressive architecture is the library collection itself which holds 70,000 manuscripts in the Abbey’s 200,000 strong collection.

Want to know which other libraries made my list? Read the full article by clicking on this link.

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The Importance of Libraries

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.