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Friday, October 13th, 2017

Libraries at the Heart of Communities

Picton Reading RoomThis week (9-14 October) is the very first Libraries Week, and an opportunity to reflect on the role of, and importance of, libraries in the community.

The public announcement for this new themed week in the calendar stated:

“Libraries Week is an opportunity to celebrate the very best that libraries have to offer.” Accordingly, our libraries have been staging all manner of events to showcase their place at the heart of our communities, where they always been.”

Book lending may be down and trips to the reference library may have been replaced by sojourns on the Internet in the digital age, but libraries have moved with the times and they remain places of access to information and knowledge.

As a report a few years ago put it:

“The libraries of the 21st century are no longer simply familiar repositories for books. They have changed and expanded, been rethought and redesigned. Libraries now provide an increasing range of different services, using a multitude of media, and reach a more diverse audience than ever before.”

Fifty years ago libraries were renowned as austere places run by stern matriarchal figures who demanded a soft shoe shuffle from aisle to aisle and total silence within. Now they are relaxed community meeting places, places of study, gateways to reading and learning for the young, places of social inclusion and, in their heritage sections, of reminiscence for the elderly.

When you go somewhere new, it can be worth popping into the library. For instance, if you ever visit Liverpool, take in their magnificent Central Library, marvellous architecture without and a delight of modernisation within. The Grade II listed Picton Reading Room   with its Corinthian columns facing the road bely the beauty of the circular room (pictured) and wealth of books plastering the walls inside, each floor providing a gallery into the atrium lit by a lovely skylight in the dome.

Libraries are freely accessible public assets in our communities. As the bookshelves shrink that makes space for other ways of drawing local in and opening the door to information and inclusion.