I think most of us probably visited the library as a child. I know I used to make regular visits to my local library, searching through what seemed to be endless tales of far away places, it seemed like a magical place where I could go anywhere I liked. But how many of us continue this childhood fascination with libraries as we grow older? Well, until a few years ago, I can't say I did. Now I've fallen back in love with them, and I thought I'd tell you why!
I currently have 3 library cards to my name, which give me access to a total of 43 different libraries in my surrounding area. Some of these libraries hold well over a million books inside including the second largest public lending library in Britain (Manchester Central Library). Firstly, I cannot even begin to imagine the staggering number of books I have at my fingertips. How could anybody find this anything other than completely mesmerising? There's more books available to all of us in our local libraries than anybody could possibly hope to read in a lifetime. The wealth of free information available to us is astonishing and this is why I have become so obsessed with the things!
Something you may not know is that most libraries these days have a website which allows you to login, track your loans, renew books, reserve books and search the library catalogue. This has become an invaluable tool for me, especially as a student. Say I see a book I want to read, or there's a specific subject I'm researching into, the very first thing I'll do is search the library catalogues from home to check if anywhere has what I'm looking for. If they do, I'll either reserve it or just go down and find it on the shelves myself. Because of the sheer number of books combined in the 43 libraries available to me, 95% of the time one of them has what I'm looking for. Usually, libraries within a given area will also ship books between themselves so you can pick it up wherever is most convenient. It's like Amazon - except it's free! As an art student, it simply isn't feasible for me to buy all of the books I want, but there really is no need to when I can get access to almost any book at no cost. There's also something quite wonderful about leafing through a book that has a borrowed stamp inside the cover dated from before I was even born.
Of course, there are some books that we'd just like to own for ourselves. That's fine - I still buy the odd book here and there. Maybe I like the design of it or I want to keep it on my shelf for reference, but how often do we buy a book that we read once and then never pick up again? It's refreshing to be able to borrow a book and hand it back once I'm finished so they don't just end up gathering dust on my shelves. I know I haven't been the first to read that book, and I know I won't be the last.
So maybe I sound a bit of an old fashioned, but I'm completely sold on libraries. What do you think? Do you use your local library? Why, or why not?