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His library was a fine dark place bricked with books, so anything could happen there and always did. All you had to do was pull a book from the shelf and open it and suddenly the darkness was not so dark anymore.
– Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer.
To ask, “what is a library?” may be a question which gains nothing but confused looks and sniggers from those within hearing distance. Why, the answer is simple, isn’t it? A library is just a building like many others and inside that building books are kept. These books are available to be read free of charge within the library itself or taken out on loan to be read elsewhere until eventually being returned to its original shelf. Yes?
No. A library is so much more than that simplistic and mundane description. A library is a place in which every book lover may find solace. It is a haven in which books are kept and protected, waiting for the moment in which a curious individual chooses to pick them up and allow the book to transport them to whichever time, place, or other world that exists within its pages…
So how and when did the idea of such a place come into existence? If you look closely, libraries have existed throughout history in many shapes and forms, from temples filled with clay tablets and hieroglyphics to small book collections kept in monasteries, to the existence of public and even national libraries. They all serve the purpose of storing and providing access to official and legal records, historical and religious documents, and books of fact and fiction alike. By examining the history of libraries, we can see that they have existed almost for as long as humankind itself and holds significance to most—if not all—of the individuals alive today. Even within the modern world, libraries are available to the public in many forms, ranging from public libraries to academic libraries and even mobile libraries which essentially bring the books to you!
What is it, then, that makes libraries so popular? What makes them popular as to allow them to remain in existence and even to progress to a state in which books come to us, rather than the public having to travel to a library in pursuit of a good read?
Libraries now allow for a multitude of books to be accessible to the public ranging from all sorts of subject matters—books of facts, autobiographies, biographies, fictional works, graphic novels, and comic books… These can all be found under the roof of your nearest library. Of course, books are not all that can be found there. Throughout time, libraries have advanced and expanded their own horizons as to keep up with the times in which we live. Computers, e-books, audiobooks, and even amenities such as a café and public toilets can be found within the vicinity, allowing for individuals to spend hours upon end within the library. The best part of it all is that it’s free—aside from the café, of course!
The atmosphere of the library itself is something that is cherished by its visitors; the comforting silence which descends once you’ve entered the building, broken only by the sound of turning pages, computer keys being tapped away at ,and the hushed whispers of those excited readers conversing with one another. This topped with the friendly and comforting greetings given by the librarians themselves and the support, encouragement, and guidance which they provide further aid in making visitors feel welcome to both stay and return in the future. However, the amenities, atmosphere, and company aren’t the only things which makes going to a library worthwhile. Many libraries also hold events as well to attract more publicity and to give their visitors and readers a chance to interact with one another and sometimes even the beloved authors of their favourite books—as though libraries couldn’t get anymore incredible!
Furthermore, a library not only is special because of what it provides, but because of what else can be gained from it. Upon entering a library, there is an overwhelming sense of community and belonging which can be felt. A silent recognition between the individuals inside the building that each of them hold a mutual respect for the library’s rules and the library itself. Alas with these modern libraries being accessible to individuals of all ages it is understandable that, at times, us library-goers may take them for granted. The library acts as a second home to book lovers and with that comes the blissful ignorance at just how special the buildings and what they provide are.
Perhaps you are one of those who have fallen into the unfortunately inevitable habit of entering a library, grabbing the books you want and leaving in a hurry to read them in the comfort of your own home… If this is the case, then why not take a few moments the next time you are visiting your local library to stop and observe. Look around at the others seated with their eyes plastered to the pages of books, the shelves filled with endless opportunities to venture to somewhere new and admire just how majestic and wondrous the library truly is!