I’ve always been a big fan of libraries, for as long as I can remember. I’ve had a library card since I was only a toddler, and it was one of the first things I applied for when I arrived in Northern Ireland – even before I had a job or a place to live! I’ve volunteered in my school libraries, and I’ve even spent a short time working in my university library. Libraries are a part of me. And now they are a very important part of my children as well.
Unfortunately, due to recent budget cuts in our country, the libraries are cutting back the hours again, and the cuts are heavier in the smaller locations, such as where we reside. It’s the second round in less than a year, and it’s thrown our lives, as well as other patrons and the staff into confusion. It could even be that there will be days it’ll be closed without notice. I don’t fancy walking with my two young children the mile there in bad weather just to have to turn back around again and take our loaded back packs home.
Today I thought I’d share some of the reasons that we love our local library so much. It may not help keep the hours from being permanently cut, but we can always hope. Regardless, I thought it was about time to put our library in the spotlight as it’s featured in many blog posts that we’ve done.
Tristan (6) says, “I love reading. I’m going to read for my whole life!”
Kallista (4) says her reason for loving the library is, “Books! Loads of books!” She said this with a huge smile from ear to ear! And this week while we were there she told me, “I wish we could have a house like this – we could borrow books EVERY day!”.
Why we love our library:
- Our library is the pillar of our community. Anyone at all can go in and have a look around, sit and read, chat, or participate in one of their activities. You don’t need an appointment, or even a membership.
- It’s a luxury for me to sit and read a newspaper and relax. As the price of papers continue to increase, I know that I’m able to go and catch up on all of the local news for free.
- They even have a weekly newspaper for children! Very soon Tristan will be reading this and we can learn more about national and world events together.
- There are many magazines available to read. Whether you want to catch up on gossip, gardening, or the best brand of printer to purchase, they have the magazine for you.
- As a home educating family, the library is our second home (it was long before then, too).
- The children already know about the Dewey Decimal system.
- They are excited to look things up in the encylopedea – how many kids these days think they’re the greatest of books?
- The children have learned to read using books from the library. As early readers aren’t read for too long, they are too expensive to invest it.
- The children love to borrow books about science (especially earth and space).
- The children are learning some Japanese by listening to a CD borrowed from the library.
- My four-year-old has also been bringing home books on grammar. They’re too old for her, but big brother’s been using them!
- The children and I love reading books about different cultures around the world. The stories and illustrations are so interesting.
- They also do some of their studying at the library tables as they are much bigger than our own table.
- Tristan had his first poem published in a book, and we staged a fun ‘book signing‘ for him. It was really just for our own pleasure and photos, but the librarians came over, took photos, and on later in the year introduced Tristan to their bosses when they were visiting, making him feel very important.
- I’ve used the library for so many book resources in addition to educational books that I borrow for the children.
- When the children were babies and I had a little more time to read, I would borrow books about child psychology.
- Even with the rise of Pinterest, I still love looking through ‘proper’ cookbooks for recipes and ideas.
- I’ve borrowed books about various forms of crafting over the years.
- I have been able to borrow biographies of people I would otherwise not have bothered to learn about, and am usually pleasantly surprised to hear their stories.
- I have escaped into the world of fiction when life is stressful and I want something a little more exciting.
- I have learned more about the country that we are living in by borrowing local history books, as well as using the reference resources.
- My husband enjoys listening to books on CD on his commute to work.
- Our children are very shy, but they feel safe and secure in the library, and will chat away with the librarians who always make the time to listen.
- The library provides a warm, dry, shelter from the elements if you happen to be caught in a downpour.
- We use the library as our destination to ensure we get out for some exercise during bad winter weather (or any time of the year). We know when we arrive we’ll find a dry place to listen to the rain fall on the sky lights while we’re warm inside and enjoying ourselves before our uphill walk back home.
- I enjoy looking at all of the local information in the library so I can know what is going on. Courses, meetings, societies, public awareness campaigns…I like to stay informed.
- Although we have a pc at home, I sometimes walk down to the library and sit for the day using the computers there. I find I get a lot more done without the distractions of my beautiful children and husband. I work much more efficiently there – especially with all of the boring stuff like fixing up old posts, sorting through categories, and organising landing pages.
- After my eldest was born extremely premature I suffered from major depression for over two years, and the library was a place I could go and be around people, even if I wasn’t in the mood to interact.
- The staff at our local library are the BEST!
- They are always very friendly and never make us feel rushed, even if they are up to their eyeballs.
- They go above and beyond when we, or other patrons have a question or need some help.
- They always ask the children how they are doing, what they’ve been up, and make them feel welcome.
- They always say hello if we see them working at another library or when out and about.
- Some staff aren’t local and have taught my children a few ‘foreign’ words, or have passed on newspapers to me when they’ve visited their own family which isn’t too far from my home town.
- They don’t put up with any nonsense when some younger citizens come in and bully and harass them. It’s nice to know the library is a safe haven for the community.
- They create beautiful displays of both books, and for general seasonal decorating as well. It adds a lovely atmosphere to the library, and I’ve borrowed many-a-book from their displays…feeling guilty for leaving an empty space…but enjoying the read!
- The free wi-fi means that if the pcs are in use, or if I want both of my children to work on-line at the same time (often for curriculum reviews), then one can use the children’s pc, while the other uses my tablet, and I can do other work, planning, or even have time to write a quick, old-fashioned letter!
- Our library has actively supported at least three charities in the past 6 months that I know of, and I’m sure there are many more.
- Our little library has so many interesting events, and they are all well-attended. These are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. We’ve participated in many of these, and have been in the library doing our own thing during the others. This is by far not an exhaustive list, and I’m so glad the the events continue to grow!
- The summer reading challenge each year. This year with the children a little older, I was able to participate in it myself. We’d all have a little quiet time in the afternoons with a book. They enjoyed seeing me read, and it sets a good example for them. I’m not reading quite as much now, but I’m still reading (for pleasure) a lot more than I was a year ago. The children love getting the stamps for their read books, and this year’s event was a show-stopper, they LOVED all of the activities!
- Rhythm and Rhyme sessions. Tristan is now 6 and Kallista 4, but they still go to the sessions. When Tristan was ‘of age’ he was too shy to participate and would sit on my knee the whole time. Now he’ll sit with his sister and sing along! He tells me, “I’m NEVER too old to go!”
- Both children are also huge Story Time fans! And they absolutely LOVE when there is a special craft to do along with it! We know it’s a lot of extra work for the librarians, but it does make so many children so happy!
- Both Rhythm and Rhyme and Story Time sessions are held for the public, as well as ‘closed’ sessions for nearby nurseries and daycares.
- A recent 3D Printer demonstration was a big hit, with the attendee list full and a few extra on-lookers as well. It was so interesting to see such a contraption up close and personal, and the children were delighted with their name plates, feathers, and spider!
- Over the summer I was in a learn-to-draw class taught by two local artists. I had fun learning something new, and my family was impressed with my ‘talents’.
- The library has hosted a photography exhibition by the Islandmagee Camera Club, which was very much appreciated.
- It’s also hosted an art exhibit with many local talents included.
- During the annual Victorian Fair, there is a story time which gets both children and parents involved and is a hoot. We’ve now seen Billy and Kathleen at least three times!
- There have been countless computer classes for people to take to understand how to use it.
- There have been classes on becoming familiar with an iPad.
- There are sessions on how to save money.
- The weekly knit and natter group is a close-knit group full of laughter. I haven’t participated in this group yet, but I’m very tempted join. Perhaps I can drop in when Phil has a Wednesday off work.
- The children really enjoyed listening to stories and seeing Randall Stephen Hall illustrate a character inspired by the kids in attendance. They proudly have the drawing in their bedroom.
- There have also been other meet the author evenings, which unfortunately I haven’t yet been able to attend.
- The new computers are soo much faster, and they are often all in use.
- I haven’t yet seen anyone use Skype, but I love that it’s available to the public. I spent 5 years away from my homeland and the public library pcs were my only form of communication. It can be invaluable.
Well…that was a lot said! With all of those positives (and many more I haven’t mentioned), there are only a few negatives about our library system in general.
I know that times are tight, and due to circumstances beyond the control of the NEELB, there have been drastic cuts in the budget. I seriously hope that these are only temporary as a reduction in hours to our library will have a huge impact on the community. It’s true that there are larger libraries in Carrickfergus and Larne, but I am not in a financial position to be able to take the children and myself by train to visit them. There are other young families, as well as many elderly people who are also in the same situation.
I know there are people who rely on the pc to connect with family members overseas, for applying for jobs, for paying bills, for research, and the fewer hours a library is open, the more difficult it is to do these tasks.
We were recently in Belfast and received a book and bag at a literacy event. In the bag there was a leaflet promoting local libraries, which combined with the timing of the new hours. It’s hard to promote literacy if there isn’t a place to do it.
Even the lunch hour closures will affect us as we’ll not be able to do our, work in the morning, then walk down after snack time and hang out doing some more education, browsing the children’s books, reading, or just enjoying ourselves. We’re often there until 1:30 or 2:00 before heading home. Now we have to get up earlier, and head out the door before snack time so that we can have as much time there as we can. As the weather is often unpredictable, we don’t want to leave too early and be waiting outside for the library to open. And we’ll have to have ourselves tidied up and ready to go before the librarians need to lock up for lunch, so really we’ll only have at most about 2.5 hours of work-time, which just isn’t enough, for us and for many others. We live a mile away, so it’s a bit far in bad weather to walk home for a fast lunch and then to go back again when the weather is bad, especially with young children. We’d spend more time getting coats and boots on and walking than time spent at the library.
Our library is a lovely place to socialise for many of our village members. It doesn’t matter your religion, nationality, age, or social status, everyone is made to feel welcome.
The majority of the cuts coming down seem to be hitting the smaller libraries harder. It may be because they aren’t used as much due to the population sizes, but the more the hours are cut back, the harder it is for people to go to the library, and this will just continue to spiral until in a short period of time our beautiful, expanded and refurbished library will be closed and desolate. In a smaller community there are few places to go, and this is the only place we can go that doesn’t cost anything.
The smaller libraries like Whitehead and Greenisland are special. They are warm and comfortable. The librarians know everyone by name and offer a personal touch, unlike the larger centres with automated self-serve lending where you don’t ever have to interact with a human. If you spend enough time there, you will start to know the regular faces, names, and personalities of the regular visitors. You’ll even make new friends, which is hard to do once the children are no longer old enough for Moms and Tots groups.
The library is like home to us, and we go as often as we can, and we’d go more often if it were easier for us. We also enjoy visiting other libraries when we’re in the area. We actually take an earlier train when we have a dental appointment so we can visit the nearby library. The children love the different book choices, and they learn that libraries are fantastic resources for many people in many places.
I sincerely hope that we won’t lose our library, and that instead of cutting our hours, that they’ll even be expanded so that even more people can enjoy the benefits of all the services it offers.
How do you use your library? Do you have any ideas on how to keep the libraries open? I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this important issue!