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What's so great about libraries?

The real question is, what's not so great about libraries? ;) This was [personal profile] forestofglory's post topic request, and I could probably fill up many screens with an answer, but I'd feel a little like I was preaching to the choir -- I can't imagine there are many people reading this who do not already love and appreciate libraries. So if you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a direction that's a little more personal.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, going back as far as I can remember. There was no way my parents were ever going to keep my book appetite fed, so naturally we were regular patrons of the public library. None of the small Iowa towns I lived in ever had libraries of their own, which meant regular pilgrimages -- every few weeks, or however long checkout periods were in those days. I graduated from picture books to chapter books around first grade, starting with the Oz books because I loved the movie. (I didn't know this at the time, but the librarian once asked my mom if I was actually reading the books or just looking at the pictures. Mom assured her that I was reading them -- every word, often several times over.) Library day was always my favorite, because library day meant more books: more stories to read, more imaginary worlds to visit, more lives to try out for a brief time, more old favorites to revisit (it was rare for me to get out of the library without at least one book I'd read before). So it's no wonder that libraries are my happy place, or that I gravitated toward them when it came time to pick a campus job as a college student.

So that's one thing I love about libraries: that's where the books are. Of course libraries are about much more than books -- I could go on in that vein, too -- but I have no problem with the brand of libraries being books. Because books are great, and despite what people keep saying, books aren't going anywhere. They may decline in importance for some purposes, and they may change format sometimes, but the basic idea of the book will continue to matter. As a librarian, and a library lover, I embrace the book, and the mission of matching readers with their book (see the Five Laws of Library Science). (If I had time to start over again, I might write a whole new post riffing on those five laws, and why they describe what makes libraries great, but it's getting to be bedtime. Maybe another time.)

I could list many other reasons, but that might be the most important, to me. How about you, my fellow library lovers? What is so great about libraries?

This entry is also posted at http://owlmoose.dreamwidth.org/725909.html. There are currently comment count unavailable comments on DW.

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