You are on a bus, and you see that someone a few seats ahead of you is reading a book. You peer around, looking for the cover. It’s a book you’ve read! Someone else is discovering words you love right now, and you’re witnessing it. What a glorious sight. But then the question comes: should you talk to them? what do you say?
I’ve seen quite a lot of stuff on twitter last week about the need for authors to get paid, and not to plagirise books and all that (See Alyssa’s thread about it here). I agree with that, though I can’t say I’m very consistent when it comes to movies (which I’m trying to change but….) It’s wrong to read illegal copies of books (though occassionally people I know will say “I found this great book on a dodgy Russian website” and I’m like *judging*). But I feel like a lot of people have forgotten about libraries.
I know that libraries are not accessible to everyone, especially depending on the country you live in. I think that you can get some sort of library-kindle deal with amazon prime (is that right, anyone?) I personally have a somewhat mediocre school library and the wondrousness of OverDrive, which is books for free (at the cost of school fees + my parents paying taxes).
The book blogging community (or blookunity, as Alyssa dubs it) is sort of obsessed with book ownership. A publisher is going to send me that book. I’m going to buy this book. I want that series over there. Please trade your rare ARC’s with me so that I can have these particular books I care about. As I’ve said before, I don’t own that many books relative to a lot of other book bloggers/bookstagrammers/booktubers. Together Shar and I might have about 40 books that are exclusively ours? And I love to own books, of course, but I love libraries too. Why?
Firstly, because libraries are a way to share books. I think every single person who will read this post loves books. What better way to love books than to share them? Libraries can be places where you find books that you never would have read otherwise, if they’re not available in bookstores and don’t have an e-book sale going on? Occasionally it’s not so good—I did find a half eaten lollipop in a book once—but mostly it’s a great idea to get books from the library. If it’s a book I don’t like, then great, it’s gone in 3 weeks and I don’t have to think about it again. If it’s a book I do like, I can drag my friends to the library and force them to check it out and make them feel guilty if they don’t like it. (everyone does this… right?) Libraries support authors, too. If there’s a copy of a book at most of Auckland Libraries 44 branches, that’s a fair few sales for the author, and way more people who can access the book.
Secondly, librarians can be really cool and helpful. Now, there are notable exceptions to this. My library at school doesn’t have a proper librarian, but I’ve met lots and lots of amazing librarians in my life. If you don’t know what to read, they can give you recommendations. If you need help with a research project, they probably have tools to deal with that. If you want the people in that corner over there who are “working on their group project” to stop talking about who invited who to the dance, the librarians will be on your side.
Libraries have lots of other resources. Libraries provide lots of things, like access to research databases, computers, internet access, newspapers, shelter from rain and annoying people… lots of very very important things.
Libraries are fair (somewhat). If the only way to get books was by buying them, then the people who could read books would be limited to those who could afford it. For centuries, it was this way. With libraries, and particularly digital libraries, anyone with a library card can access books, which is pretty equitable. Of course, there are lots of disadvantaged people across the world who don’t have access to libraries.
There are lots of reasons why libraries are so important. I love that I can go to libraries, digitally and irl, and find books for free. I think it’s awesome that anyone (sort of) can access them, and they have lots of other resources. Libraries are awesome!
So tell me about your library, Virtually Readers! Do you use one? Do you want to? What’s your favourite thing about libraries?