Bookish Topic Tuesday
Estimates suggest that there are over a million libraries in the world, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are over 540 libraries, operating at over 1700 locations just in Australia. That’s a whole lot of books, and that isn’t even including the approximately 10,000 schools in Australia, the dozens of universities and TAFE’s and other libraries within organisations or businesses! Actually thinking about this, starts to make my head hurt at how many books there are in the world. Billions? Trillions? (according to Google, nearly 130,000,000 individual books have been published, so I’m guessing the number of copies of books are in the order of billions). That’s not quite what I’m here to discuss (though that would make an interesting post, maybe another time), what I’m here to discuss is the libraries (which again according to the ABS actually hold around 50 million books and other library materials!). Around 35% of Australia’s population visit a library at least once in a year, and collectively they borrow out 138 million books (and that was back in 2004!).
I think from some of the above statistics, it is clear that libraries are not only numerous, but are pretty well frequented. Of course I would love statistics that were more recent, especially with competition from ebooks. Do more people go to the library now? Are there more items available? Are we borrowing more? If we ever get some new data, I’ll let you know! But from personal experience, libraries are booming.
I love my library. I frequent my library at least once a month, I borrow a large number of my books, since I don’t have the money to buy every single book (no matter how much I’d like to), and that’s true of most people. So for book lovers like us, libraries are like what the clichéd candy store is for a kid. Every time I go to the library, it is abuzz with people, the lines are always long to check out, and the computers are always being used. And if you go behind the scenes, and take a look at just the huge number of books the staff and volunteers have to put away, you probably wouldn’t think libraries have lost their touch.
I love my library even more because recently, all the libraries across the state have banded together, and now I can borrow anything from any library (in the program, but it’s most of them), without even having to go to that library! They’ll bring it to my library, and return it when it’s done. Now the logistics behind the scenes, must be horrific, just imagine trying to coordinate the delivery of books from just one library to countless other libraries, especially when they aren’t just around the corner! I’m so glad that they have done this though, and I think it has probably increased circulation, since now there is just so much in the catalogue available, and it usually means shorter waiting times for reserved items (a service I use for the majority of my borrows).
And no longer are libraries just for books, for years now, people have been making use of the free public computers (where else offers that?), research assistance and, events and activities. So there’s so much to do at libraries, why would people think that they are ‘beyond their years’? I guess people think with the internet (and Wikipedia specifically) you don’t really need to go to a library to research using out-dated books from the non-fiction section anymore, and usually the non-fiction sections of libraries are pretty huge. And I have to admit, that for any assignment or essay I needed to do, the library would be one of the last places for information I would tend to look, my textbooks and the internet would usually suffice. At the same time though, it is almost a shame that we have lost that skill of finding a huge book in some corner of the library, and taking notes out from it, before putting that into our own essays. There would be no ‘copy and paste’, so ‘plagiarism’ couldn’t have been such an issue, but that’s not really why I’m here. Even though the books are usually outdated, simply because (especially with science and technology) there is so much rapid advancement, that they can’t keep up. A textbook printed even a week ago, would already start to have things out of date. However, I still find non-fiction sections interesting, because, there is so much information there (yes the internet has more) but, it’s usually easier to understand and to find. With so much information, in varying degrees of difficulty, on the internet, it can make it hard to find relevant information. Books, for me at least, make it easier.
And the fiction section, the main reason I go to the library! That of course, has come under competition of the dreaded ‘e-book’ (which is a topic I’ll cover sometime soon). Why go to the library, borrow a book, when you can have access to thousands of them from the comfort of your own home? Of course you can download some e-books for free (legally that is), but what about a brand new release, are you really going to go through illegal means or fork out money when you could just go ahead and borrow the book from the library? In my personal opinion, I don’t think I could ever replace physical books with e-books. But, for those who do like e-books, libraries are already starting to offer ‘borrow-able’ e-books! Even more reason to go to your library!
Plus libraries are a great place to become part of a community. You can find people there that share your interests, you could join a book club, or better still, someone might suggest a series/author/title for you, and you’ll soon fall in love with it. Libraries are a great place to not only borrow a book, but meet some new people, and find new books! It’s so easy to miss great titles, and fantastic authors, there are after all millions of books out there, so there isn’t enough time to read them all yourself! And quite often you will pick up a book because someone else has recommended it, or you were just browsing the shelves and something took your fancy. Without libraries, you wouldn’t really have this luxury.
I honestly could think of how I would cope without a library. I simply can’t afford to buy that many books, and sometimes I might not want to buy a book, I just want a quick read. The great thing is, that it’s free, so if I don’t like the book, I’m not really stuck with it, and I can’t feel guilty for buying it, and then not ever reading it. And frankly, what’s even more important are school libraries, those places are amazing, and if you have a great librarian, they can definitely influence your reading habits. I know my primary school librarian has changed really made an impact on my life. And I really lament when I hear of schools getting rid of their libraries, they are fantastic places, and must be saved!
Libraries are just fantastic, and if you don’t know what all the fuss is about, I suggest you go visit your local library, it will be worth your while.