Saturday, February 9, 2013
Do you visit the local library?
We rarely do. It's probably yet another black mark against my parenting skills. But I tried, I really did.
Inspired by childhood Saturday mornings spent trawling the shelves for something new, exciting and unread, and afternoons perched high in the branches of the tree at the corner of the garden head buried in my latest find, I did my best to pass on my love of books to my kids.
It didn't really work.
I have a house full of books, they've seen me read, I read to them religiously every night until they reached the age of 9 or 10. I don't buy toys on request, but I will pay for any book if they promise to read it. It wasn't enough. Sadly I don't think that Smiley will ever read, but she has a good excuse, while my son and oldest daughter seem to find the on-line world more interesting.
I did try to interest them in the local libraries. Sometimes they were open when we visited, sometimes the children borrowed books, but they often did not look at them. I often wanted to order books, but that seemed to require 3 visits to the library, one to order the book, one to collect, and one to return it. And you had to pay. Downloading new titles is a much easier option for someone like me who has little spare time.
But there are plenty of people who DO have time on their hands. I've seen some of them at the library: older people, young families bringing children in for story-telling, middle aged people who are maybe out of work. The library is a warm, safe place for them, to relax, to learn, to research, perhaps even to socialise.
Today is National Libraries Day in the UK and there is much wringing of hands about the closure of local libraries and a hollowing out of the services. But perhaps libraries need to change, need to think about how they could change and adapt and fill gaps in services.
There's so much talk about the demise of the local pub, about the need for people to have somewhere to meet. Why not add a social role to libraries, built around books? Why not add a cafe and toilets, so that people could spend as much time as they wanted there. If pubs are closing because of the drink driving laws, perhaps libraries could become a social hub for communities? Tea, coffee, buns and books: that could work, couldn't it? Keep the free wifi, and add a meeting room or two. Who knows, perhaps books could be the next big thing?
Inspired by a conversation on twitter this morning.