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Libraries have Survived and Thrived: Because we Need Them

October 4, 2019

Those of you who are Better Reading regulars will know that we love libraries. We share a lot of library news, and feature libraries and librarians. We’re always happy to hear from libraries that want to be featured, so please get in touch. If there’s one thing we know here, libraries play a vital role in our communities.

In recent years, with the rise of the digital age and ebooks, doom was predicted for the broader book industry. There was a shift in bookselling, and certainly many book shops, both indie and book chains, didn’t make it. While all this was happening, libraries stood firm. They regrouped. They ignored the death knells and many of them modernised and got on with the job.

The Good Weekend recently reported on the success of Australia’s public lending libraries, of which there are over 1500, with more than 9 million members nationwide.

“With the rise of the internet, public libraries were supposed to be on borrowed time. But they’re thriving – their renaissance as much about community as the literary riches they contain.” Writer Jane Cadzow points out that “the public library is our most valued cultural institution.”

This is an excellent point: libraries are so valued and so important. In a time when theatre and film tickets are costly, and not all communities have access to other arts institutions, the local library is accessible to everyone.

Gone are the days when libraries were silent, dusty places, with rather austere women shushing even the slightest noise. Modern libraries are busy and vibrant centres for knowledge and community. They deliver more than books. Library spaces are increasingly being used for activities over and above collection use and study. Rooms are used for meetings and events. People who don’t have internet access or access to home computers are able to use their local library. For those who can’t get to their local library in person, many Australian libraries can now be accessed online, and have extensive ebook and audiobook collections. There are school libraries, university libraries, town libraries, state libraries and even 2,000 special libraries in Australia.

Personally, I’m a member of two local libraries and use them regularly, especially if I’m researching something I’m writing. I’ve always been a library user. Always loved them. But never more so than when I had young children. Parenting very young children can be incredibly isolating. A week of rainy days is enough to drive any stay-at-home parent mad. My saving grace was my local library, close enough to walk to, to hang out for a while, enjoy a scheduled storytime… simply connect with other people.

Now that my children are young adults, I see the mums with toddlers at my library and see that while libraries have modernised into the new millennium… some things about them haven’t change at all.

Are you a member of a local library? Tell us about your favourite library? Tell us what you use your library for?


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