Libraries are all about ideas, exciting your curiosity, connecting to your community and provide access to learning, books, and reading. Yes good things happen in libraries and we, the librarians, hear from our members all those good stories all the time. After the dreadful economist — he who shall not be named — wrote THAT Forbes article advocating for Amazon to replace libraries, we saw an outpouring of love for libraries from people from all walks of life. And they told of all the good things that happened to them in the library. And they happened because a library and its librarians serve them — yes a library serves its community and its members.
Libraries host Events, Holiday Activities, STEM and Makerspaces, Bookclubs, Digital Literacy classes, Language Conversation classes, Homework Clubs, Writing Clubs, App making clubs, and I could go on. And because we deliver these things communities come together — to meet, to learn and to read. I recently heard the Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay discuss public libraries stepping up to act as community hubs, building the social glue that connects communities together.
And here are some of the good things that have happened in our users own words.
Tania talks about her library in this blog post and describes it — It’s like home; it’s really easy to fit in. You can go to any library, but this is a particularly beautiful one. Beautiful libraries are definitely another attraction and we often read about library tourists and this does feature in Tania’s view of her library.
Diane is a regular at the Ayr Public Library’s seniors computing class. She talks with us here about the benefits she derives from the classes and their importance to the community. And the social aspect of the classes are just as important as the learning and building confidence in becoming a local.
Mark Hands, CEO Goldfields Library Corporation, told me the story of the Bendigo Library’s Micro Business Expo. The Microbusiness expo is a featured event in the Bendigo Small Business Festival and will run from August 25–31 (excluding Sunday, 26 August). The expo offers low-cost spaces for small owner / operators to showcase their businesses to members of the public during library opening hours. Stallholders include craftspeople, educators, small retail operators and service providers and many are one person businesses. The Expo attracted a lot of people and the small businesses received a lot of local interest. The unexpected benefit from this though was that the business people got to meet each other. What evolved from this social interaction on the day was a monthly get together at the library to discuss their businesses and issues and provided a social interaction for these home based businesses.
Another recent library story that was shared with me was from a women who had immigrated to Australia with her family as her husband moved for his employer. The first few months here she was very busy settling the family, making sure her teenage children settled into their schools and setting up the new family home. But after that there she was on her own in the house while her children were at school and her husband was at work — alone, not knowing anyone in the neighbourhood. And then she said she discovered the library and in her words it saved her life. She spent whole days in the library, reading, attending the events, and one day a librarian suggested she join a book club. And that started to connect her socially to her new community.
Libraries do need to be more intentional about connecting people though. So do not forget to build in time for people to introduce themselves to the person sitting next to them or behind them at our events or workshops. Purposely build opportunities to connect after events like the Micro Business expo, even if it is a focus group to evaluate the event. And remember to document these stories so that libraries can build a case for the positive impact we have in the daily lives of our communities — remember we are the social glue that connects communities to each other.
So here’s to libraries: A haven to the disruption that is the make up of our communities daily lives.