I am ashamed to say it but my last trip to a public library occurred almost a decade ago and it ended in tears as my two youngest children, both toddlers, ran through the stacks pulling random books off shelves and laughing loudly as I raced behind them trying to regain control.
This was not my finest moment and the trauma ever after lay not so much in the memory of their misbehavior as in the realization that my children might never sit still long enough to learn to read.
The months rolled on and life was busy. With the internet fulfilling my every research need, the library became a background memory that no longer held great relevance.
When a recent business meeting took me to my local public library’s main branch, however, I was astounded at the explosion in resources that’s taken place over the past ten years. It’s not just about friendly books and loaner CDs anymore! The online accessibility of resources surprised me the most: anyone with a library card can access thousands of online databases – reliable ones — on any topic you can imagine and help is available with any research users undertake.
The library in my home town of Oakville, Ontario, also offers:
- downloadable eBooks and audiobooks
- free DVD loans
- free wireless internet
- pre-packaged book selections to grab ‘n go
- help with web research for genealogical projects
- an interactive career search reference resource
- a Wii for big screen Wii game enjoyment
- a dial-a-story service for children
- resources in numerous languages
- literacy tutoring
- many services for visually and hearing impaired people
And so much more! The library offers a wide range of resources for children and teens and online reference help is available via email or instant messaging. In essence, the library has changed from a temple to the written word to a repository of practical resources applicable to almost any aspect of today’s world. If there is any information I need about almost anything, I know I can probably get it through my library.
How did this happen? I suspect that “response to consumer demand” has a lot to do with it and I applaud the Oakville Public Library for doing a terrific job of staying current: it’s an exciting place to go! Even my children – who somehow turned into voracious readers with many interests – are happy in a library now and as a family we’re looking at the library as a destination again, if only, sometimes, on a virtual plane.
If you haven’t been to your own library in a while I encourage you to check it out to find out how it can make your own world a better place. You might be surprised!