Let there be light

I love libraries. They innately feel like home to me. I love books, that’s what gets you into wanting to be a writer. There are hundreds of excellent quotes about libraries from the writers of the world. Today, on world book day, is a good time to reflect on libraries and how important they are.

More than being about books libraries about communities and access. They provide essential services and a space where people can gather or spend a few hours without spending any money.

Scholar Robin Mazumder posted about his experience working with the Library in Waterloo. He discusses libraries as spaces and the role that they play in our increasingly divided society.

As a physical space, libraries embody what we should aspire towards when we are talking about healthy places. They are inviting public spaces where people from all backgrounds come together in the spirit of learning – perhaps about topics of interest to them, but also, maybe more importantly, learning about each other. In a sense, libraries are the living rooms of our communities. These living rooms are needed now, more than ever, as we are seeing xenophobia and intolerance being stoked all around us. As the bigots continue to try to create divisions amongst us, we are increasingly in need of spaces where we can come together to connect as humans.

[…]

Through both its physical design as an accessible meeting place and the equitable values upon which it exists, libraries will continue to safeguard and foster this right to the city and will assist us, as Lefebvre puts it, in changing ourselves through changing our cities. As our cities continue to grow at a rapid rate, libraries will serve as think tanks for urban transformation and will play a vital role in our collective effort to make cities healthy, happy and inclusive places.

In a world where everything costs money including go out and finding somewhere to spend time or work libraries are a key resources. They are one place you can go where there isn’t a $3 price of admission (in the form of a coffee or pastry) and you never have to move along because you feel like you’ve been taking up that space too long.

As contract work and freelancing grows having spaces where people can go to be around people and get some work done away from home is increasingly important. Libraries can become an important part of this future if we are smart about how we build them. I can’t afford to go work at a cafe every day or every time I want to get out of the house. The way I work is isolating and I earn barely enough to get by. I need affordable spaces to be around other people.

Libraries are one of the first places that new arrivals go to and play an essential role in integration and accessing services. He writes:

The library is the first I place I visited after moving to Kitchener last year. I was feeling lonely and just wanted to be around people. I don’t know that I am alone in visiting the library for that reason. No surprise then, that KPL’s slogan is “where community connects”.

Libraries can teach job search skills, computer skills and English classes. They are where kids learn to read and where you can find out how to do just about anything. They are a safe space for whether you’re new to town or new to the country.

They also remind me of the good that humans can do when we work together. If I ever feel really down about the future of humanity I remember that we have these great institutions where you can get more or less any book you want for free. All you have to do is bring it back so other people can use it. It’s the sharing economy before the sharing economy. It shows the power of government and coming together. It shows that small ideas can become big things and that we are better together. It shows that public spaces and services matter.

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