Do you get a little thrill of anticipation when you walk through the door of a library? Does the sight of hundreds of books meticulously arranged according to the Dewey Decimal system (or alphabetically by author name) put you over the moon?
Books have always been my kryptonite. When the kids were little they used to complain about going into a library or bookstore with me. Their concerns were valid. I’m a book browser, and can happily spend hours reading the back cover blurbs before I make a selection. Such habits aren’t popular with those who don’t share my passion.
When I was a child, I’d visit the library to find reading material for the week. This would typically include Nancy Drew, the Black Stallion series, and anything by Marguerite Henry. At the check-out counter, a gray-haired librarian who seemed to be at least one hundred years old, would stamp a due date on a card, and then hand me a stack of books to take home. I felt like the richest person on earth picking any book I wanted to read from among hundreds of possibilities.
Libraries have been around for centuries, but public libraries are a more recent phenomenon. In the seventeenth century, universities set up libraries for students, which became the first step toward establishing a place designated specifically for housing books to lend. Wealthy patrons like Andrew Carnegie donated huge sums of money to open libraries in communities who pledged to support the institution with a tax ensuring the library’s books would be lent to the public free of charge. The free public library notion grew and prospered over the years.
A cool recent development is the little free library. You might have seen a few of these tiny nooks with books. Anyone is invited to take what they want, and leave a book or two for whoever comes along next. A pretty cool concept, if you ask me.
Yet there are naysayers who claim the library is on the way out. They speculate someday everyone will read electronically, so there won’t be any need for a pubic library.
Libraries have proven they can change with the times, providing services and programs invaluable to the community. Take, for example, the St. Charles City-County Library District. They continue to amaze me with not only an outstanding collection of books (no worries if they don’t have what you want, just ask and they’ll get it), but they also offer an incredible variety of other ways to assist. Need help with taxes? Want to learn how to knit? Would you like to make a lovely bead bracelet? Our library has programs on these topics and much, much more. For a glimpse of what’s happening, click HERE to see a calendar of events for the St. Charles City-County Library. You might find yourself signing up for a computer class, or maybe even meet your favorite author.
It’s my belief that libraries will continue to figure out what we need, and then deliver it. And books? As a hybrid reader, I have a few volumes on my Kindle, but a glance at my home bookcases (yes, more than one) will verify I still love reading a physical book. I don’t expect that to change.
You have it straight from me. Libraries are here to stay.
So, let’s hear it for the public library. A gem of a resource holding the keys to the past, and guiding us through the gateway to the future.