I have fond memories of the beginning of the summer holidays when my younger brother and I would go to the local library and stock up on books to keep us (at least partially) occupied over the six weeks.
Being the 'bookish' child I would find the biggest bag I could and spend the entire time attempting to fill my bag, or max out the number of loans I could have. I was always confronted with protest that I couldn't possibly read that much in the three week loan period - left to my own devices I definitely would have.
But for my brother it was an agonising hour or so of having to choose from an array of things he wasn't interested in, and I often got dragged into the mix to help find something that would encourage his love of reading. It was a struggle and he has never seemed to find the same joy in reading that I have. But eventually he began to find things he was interested in. He was a very different type of reader to me, or anyone else in the family. Where I was soon thriving on YA fiction, my brother always preferred fantasy and adventure stories. This meant that I could only help him so much. For him, the library itself become crucial in finding what to read next.
Our local library served us both in completely different ways. It fed my appetite for reading in a way that would have cost a small fortune otherwise. I am sure that without the open access I had to books, I wouldn't have gone on to do English Literature at university. On the other hand they gave my brother just enough variety and options, which we couldn't find elsewhere, to get him reading in the first place.
He still doesn't have the same love for books as me, but at least he was able to find something he enjoys. It also significantly improved his English at school and later aided his interest in History too.
Libraries aren't just important for children either. Now I use both my university and local library for books, research, and simply for somewhere to read or study when I need it. I read a lot of books and would probably be bankrupt if I couldn't access at least some for free. After I graduate I have a huge list of books that I want to read to keep me occupied, so will be visiting my local library very regularly.
Even more than just reading their books I have worked and volunteered in libraries. This has given me first-hand experience of how they can offer more than just books. You can practice your driving theory at them, or research your family tree. Community libraries often hold summer school sessions or creative groups for children, others support people learning to read and many host community events.
Libraries aren't dusty old rooms any more but are high tech, helping people connect and get the most out of technology. They are fantastic public spaces; some even have cafes or hold exhibitions. Libraries are amazing, but sadly people don't realise this, assuming they are just for kids or that we don't need them now that we can get books digitally. These people couldn't be more wrong. Even if you aren't as much of a bookworm as me, there is so much you can get from a library and what better time to discover it than National Libraries Day?
So visit your local library this weekend and see what they have to offer!
Image via Flickr