I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t a member of my local library; I still have my library card from when I was in primary school that has my name spelt wrong. Becoming a library member was one of the first things I did when I moved to Manchester in my first year. They feel so reliable and predictable – I know what to expect when I walk through the doors no matter which city or country I’m in.
There are few cards in my wallet that I can get so much without exchanging money. I can go to a library and take out countless books, scan my card and walk out without spending a penny. Even if you don’t have a card, or don’t want books, you can still sit in a library for free and use the many facilities they provide.
I used to go to a craft club in my local library on the weekends, which is where I learnt how to crochet and knit, again, for free. I used to sign up to their summer reading challenges and was filled with pride when I read six books over the six weeks of the summer holiday. I remember teenagers used to sit and play on games consoles and hang out. And this support and engagement is provided throughout adulthood, with classes teaching adults how to use computers and set up email accounts.
Because the university library supplies most of our needs as it holds the textbooks we need among plenty of other services, I think it’s easy to live within the University of Manchester instead of the city of Manchester. Whilst the local libraries may not have the books for your degree, I do think it’s important to get a membership. There are no points to collect and there are no annoying spam emails, as there are with many other loyalty cards, so for me it’s a win-win.
A report in 2019 showed that 800 libraries have closed since 2010, and many more have had to reduce their opening hours because there just isn’t the funding for them anymore. But libraries are essential and I struggle to think of another public building that provides for local communities in the same way. The Central Library in Manchester was reported to have 8.3 million visitors since 2014, and 250,000 people have visited for special events and activities, as well as millions of books being on loan. It’s a hub for students from schools to university, and adults to study and work, and is also safe haven for younger children to play or enjoy reading a book. There are few places in our community which doesn’t discriminate on age-groups and for that I love them, and they can serve so many purposes.
Public libraries are an undervalued establishment, often forgotten when we can get books delivered to our door from Amazon or other online retailers. We can forget they provide more then a world of books to discover, so forget they offer more then books (but in a society where we need to be concerned about sustainability why not get a book from a library instead of buying it and reading it once).
Head down to the Withington Library and sign-up, or go to the Central Library and become a member. Public libraries do so much for the community, and it’s important to remember and acknowledge that, and, ultimately, use their facilities.