Some might think that libraries are casualties of the digital age, gone the way of telephone booths and fax machines. And yet, while it’s getting harder to find a phone booth, it’s getting easier to find a library. October is Canadian Library Month, a good time to reflect on the place of libraries in society.
When I look in the library mirror, what I see is adaptability and innovation. I see libraries that have embraced the digital age, expanding their repertoire to include informational and educational databases, eBooks in print and audio in addition to physical holdings.
As for libraries themselves, our days as simply warehouses for books are long gone. We are the social hub of the community, where kids come to storytimes, teens get tutored, grandparents get computer training and people of all kinds come to meet, learn, and enjoy.
The definition of library has expanded, but lovers of traditional books continue to find more ways to share them. A recent Macleans magazine article describes the efforts humans go to in order to do just that, with libraries popping up in airports, hotels, and subway stations. It describes a library in Burundi filled with giant, locally-made hammocks to read in. And it lauds the unstoppable librarians, who deliver books in the Gobi Desert by camel or in Laos via an elephant named Boom-Boom.
Little Free Libraries have sprung up everywhere — there are several in the Nelson area and more than 40 now in Vancouver — with their take-a-book-leave-a-book philosophy. Sometimes the book you pick up will come with an anonymous note; I picked one up at a tiny, perfect library just off Commercial Drive with a note that read: “this book changed my life.”
Whichever way you get your book — off the shelf or online — books indeed have that ability. In our new cookbook Pairings: a compendium of beloved recipes and books from the chefs of Nelson (to be launched at our 95th birthday party on Oct. 27) our local kitchen wizards told us about the book that changed their lives. Chances are, you have one too.
To celebrate Library Month, we’d like you to share the name of a book you’ve loved; one that picked you up when you were down, taught you the thing you needed to know, inspired you, made you think, changed your life. Write it down with a bit about why you chose it, drop your entry in the box across from the circulation desk, and we’ll draw for a copy of our gorgeous new cookbook.
And we’ll make up a reading list (keeping your comments anonymous) to inspire readers through the year — great books you can read any which way you choose.
In England, British Telecom launched an adopt-a-kiosk program a few years ago, offering communities a chance to buy defunct telephone booths for about two bucks apiece. Those classic red telephone boxes became all sorts of good things — including libraries. Making it harder to find a phone, but easier yet to find a library. When you find one, you can use your smartphone to call your mom to tell her about it (on which you can also read a book, by the way).
Where will you find the book that will change your life?
Anne DeGrace is the adult services coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.