Every September, I start the school year by asking children how many are members of the library. The answer is always surprisingly low. Take this year for example, out of a class of 30 only 5 said they were members and another 8 said they thought they might be but hadn’t been for a long time. That’s under half of the class! The worrying thing is that the number of children using libraries seems to shrink each year. Are we falling out of love with libraries or are we unaware of the full range of services they offer?
Why Join A Library?
It is a free service. It costs nothing to join and for children late fees are (in most cases) waived. It is true that some services, such as borrowing DVDs do attract a small fee – more on that later. For your membership you get access to thousands of books and other services. My local library service in Cornwall provides ‘access to over a million books, plus CDs, DVDs, online newspapers, eBooks, eAudiobooks, online magazines, music scores, plays and local information as well as offering access to computers and online resources.’ That’s a lot of services for free.
First and foremost books
Your local library will have thousands of books available. The brilliant thing is that the librarians are there to help you choose your books if you’re unsure. Just tell them what you like and they’ll find something for you. It’s their job to know books so make use of them! Of course, there may not be the specific book you’re looking for, but thankfully there is a solution. Libraries can order in books from any other library in their area – and also ones outside the area in some circumstances. In fact, about a half of my library loans are from reserved online from other libraries before being taken to my local library for me to collect.
One of the biggest complaints I hear about libraries is that they do not have the latest titles. This is completely inaccurate. So far this year, I have borrowed 3 titles that have been released in 2018. Even better than this, if there is a book you want the library to stock ask them to order it. I asked Cornwall Libraries to get a copy of Abi Elphinstone’s excellent Sky Song. Two weeks after the release date of the book, I was collecting a copy from Liskeard Library.
It’s not just about books
For a long time, libraries have offered music and films to borrow to users. With the advent of streaming services many now overlook the library as a place to access these forms of media. The other week I borrowed a DVD from the library. It cost £1 to hire for a week; the same film was available on a popular streaming site for £3. I’ve also found that many children’s films which are available in the library are not available on some of the most popular streaming sites.
Online library services have been a game changer, yet few people utilise them. As part of my library membership, I have free access to millions of eBooks, audiobooks, eMagazines and online music – again for free. As a comparison, Audible charges £7.99 a month to use their audiobook service. At the moment, I’ve loaned the incredible Web Wabbit by Lissa Evans on audiobook to listen to while driving. Every month I read an online version of my favourite magazines, thus saving myself nearly £8 a month on buying something I will only read once. I can also download books directly onto my eReader and all of this from the comfort of my own home. So even if you don’t leave your home, you can still access millions of titles digitally.
Libraries aren’t just a place to borrow items either. They are information points which offer a range of services. They’re also a great place for meeting people. Most libraries will run a reading group or a children’s story session. Others run specialist events such as the Summer Reading Challenge for children or author visits.
As you can see, your local library is more than just a room full of books. I can’t say this loudly enough – it is free to join and most services are free (or only attract a small fee). Even if you don’t live close to a library, take advantage of the online services offered.