Libraries Offer More Than Books
As a library user and part-time library assistant, it’s fair to say I’m an advocate, but the future of public libraries in the UK is a concern of social policy and sociology too. I argue libraries should be praised for diversifying their offering to cater for the demands of contemporary life.
Gone are the days of the silence rule and only shelves filled with books, today we see the making of libraries as community hubs hosting a myriad of services.
One thing that has stayed the same, rightly so, is the mission to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all. The physical library seems to harness a public space for socialising with additional focus on activities for children and regular clubs for adults. Bearing in mind the era of Liquid Modernity (mentioned here), loneliness is prevalent due to ephemeral connections. Loneliness may be framed as a form of poverty (e.g. JRF, 2013) but libraries may help those at risk of isolation by supporting social contact and access to knowledge and learning.
Digitisation may have left the value of tangible books questioned but libraries have upped their game in how knowledge can be consumed. Free Wi-Fi and computer usage has enabled access to digital information for those who don’t have internet at home. For job hunters, for example, this opens doors in terms of developing IT skills vital for a CV and the means to browse for vacancies. Internet access is still a luxury unobtainable for many, but libraries, free at point of use, can address this barrier especially for the elderly and low income families. Digital exclusion may be considered a modern-day poverty but libraries can offer a route to engage with the democracy the online world pertains.Two modern day social issues can be eased, retaining the importance of public libraries to our social fabric. Libraries can empower so here’s to hoping the Culture Minister doesn’t make more cuts to this vital service!
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