I recently visited my local library for the first time in many years. I wrote some short prose about it here (also includes poached eggs and being approached by a creepy guy). The library felt the same in some ways, but very different in others. It struck me how sparse it seemed – it wasn’t the wonderland of high shelves and tall tales that I remembered. It seemed to house fewer books than I remembered. Huge shelves stacked high with books just look so enticing to me. I don’t want to be climbing up ladders, but who among us wouldn’t want a library to rival that of Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast? (Or like Stuttgart City Library, pictured below.) Maybe the shelves seemed lower because I’m bigger now, or maybe because fewer people use the library these days, it has become a little unloved.
I went to the library because naturally, it seemed like a good place to write. But I’d be just as happy writing in a café or a pub, people-watching. Anywhere can be a library, especially since most places have wi-fi these days. Do you write at the library, or somewhere else? I do enjoy the hum of a café, a comfy window seat in the pub with a whisky, or just sitting on a bench with no pad and pen, just observing. I don’t do these things nearly often enough, but when I do, it’s good fun. Solitary in a social setting. More inspiring than a library, perhaps – for me, at least.
But we’re all still reading. We’re still writing. We’re still learning. It’s just that we don’t need to go to a physical place to do it anymore. We have a library at our fingertips, in our pockets. So the public library has to provide something that you can only get from visiting it in person. A social venture. Events, readings, groups. (Though you could argue that the internet has its hooks firmly in these things, too.) Or libraries might offer specialised, local news or history that you may not find online.
So my question to you is about your local library. Do you visit, and is it an important part of your community? Or has it become neglected over the years? Has its function changed to make it more modern? Maybe the library still holds that excitement for children like it did when I was a kid. I hope it does. Maybe it does for you, too. Let’s share stories.