1. Free spaces where everyone is welcome.
2. Books, fiction, non-fiction, reference, magazines, newspapers, CDs, DVDs, audio books.
3. Free borrowing of books and other items – allows you access to a dozen or more items which most people could not afford to obtain on one visit in a shop.
4. Encourages reading.
5. Access to archives of information – big brand book shops do not have the breadth of old or out of print stock that libraries can have.
6. Beautiful, historical buildings – my favourites being red brick Victorian pillars of majesty, from a time when libraries were rightly respected and revered as vital establishments.
7. Carefully chosen stock with individual branches’ customers in mind. Staff employed to do this job.
8. The best library staff are passionate, and informed.
9. Physical arrangement of books – whether on beautiful old mahogany wooden shelving, or modern metal frames, it means the books are all there in front of you in one space – the internet can’t do this in the same way. Some libraries can be stunning examples of layouts – such as the gorgeous old reference library in Westminster, which has two floors to it, with steps and ladders to get up there, book-lined walls, and just a wonderful air of tradition.
10. Every library branch looks different, has its own style, character (and characters!), setting.
11. The best library staff make you feel like the library is your space, and make you feel genuinely part of your community – respected and valued and maybe even a friend.
12. Free computing – free internet can be a lifeline to a wide range of people, especially people looking for and applying for jobs, kids doing their homework, people without a printer at home, people who can’t afford their own computer.
13. Free help with learning to use computers and the internet – really needed by the elderly who can be the most neglected members of our society.
14. Free courses, like job skills, English if it’s not your native language, or fun things like knitting, creating writing, arts and sports.
15. Better for the environment that you borrow and return books from a reserve than to keep buying and buying and throw things away.
16. If you change your mind about a book, it hasn’t cost you any money. A good way of sampling things, or dipping into a variety of titles.
17. Inviting places.
18. Reasonable priced DVDs and CDs to rent.
19. The best libraries can have really well chosen DVD selections – eg arthouse films/obscure/foreign titles.
20. Good libraries have a really wide range of music – not just pop and indie, but jazz, folk, classical, Cajun and other world music – allows you to experiment for a low price.
21. You never know what you’ll read on the notice board – form a band (one genuine example is The Primitives formed through an advert in Coventry Library in the 1980s!), get a job, go to a local film, join a local activity group, rent a flat, or even as I did have the amazing chance to look after someone’s cat in my house while they were on holiday (I’ll never forget the day we met the cat in the library – her owner had brought her inside a big green shopping bag and she was avidly trying to climb out!).
22. Learn new skills – computer books can be extremely expensive, libraries have books on everything from Excel to designing your own website. The same goes for language courses – you can rent those pretty inexpensively as well.
23. Borrow travel books for free, again these can be expensive to buy and you might only need them once.
24. Community places where we can meet – you might bump into someone you know form the local area, chance meetings, friendships old and new.
25. Art books are beautiful.
26. Study at a nice big desk for free – vital if you have a noisy home life, or just can’t get disciplined.
27. Inspiring places to write – numerous authors have admitted to writing drafts of their books in libraries (one example is Bill Drummond’s 45 in Aylesbury Library – in the book he writes about its importance, and about the characters he met/liked there).
28. Free story times/nursery rhyme singing groups for babies and toddlers – alleviates the pressure for parents, and gives them a chance to meet other parents, the kids to mix, and babies to get their first experience of reading.
29. Children gain independence by having the freedom to choose their own books, and enjoy browsing and get excited about borrowing things.
30. Stickers, badges, certificates, teddy bears, and other free giveaways to encourage and reward the reading of very young children.
31. Teenagers can borrow things independently without their friends/parents judging.
32. Teenagers can easily make the transition from borrowing children’s/young adult books to adult fiction – chance to browse and experiment, again without feeling conscience/judged as no one knows them in the library and they can look around freely.
33. Safe meeting place, for arranging to meet new people, or just for meeting people you know in a central, convenient place.
34. Everything collected in one place, feels very special.
35. Landmark buildings of many villages, towns and cities.
36. People are proud of their libraries.
37. Reading spaces – somewhere to go and find a quiet corner on your own, to read.
38. Staff are human and can recommend you books similar to what you’ve just read, or in general, which a computer can’t do as well.
39. Libraries offer well-read/bookish people the chance to be employed in a job that involves knowing about books, working lovingly with books.
40. Places where people feel safe.
41. Many libraries are not only fine examples of architecture, but also have impressive interiors, like stained glass windows in Hammersmith Library, the tessellated books on the outside of the walls of Wimbledon Library, chandeliers and mahogany shelving in Kensal Rise library, regular artwork displays in Putney Library (especially from local schools).
42. Many library buildings are Grade listed.
43. Some libraries have historical importance – eg Kensal Rise was opened by Mark Twain more than a century ago.
44. Shelter from the rain!
45. Stock for sale cheaply – e.g. CDs for £1, childrens books for 30p, useful for those who can’t always afford things brand new, plus recycles the item.
46. Reading Groups – supportive, encouraging, educative, social.
47. Open on weekends.
48. Some libraries are open till 10 at night.
49. Some libraries have cafes.
50. Cambridge Library has its own Mediateque like the one at London’s British Film Institute, with archived footage and old/obscure films/TV shows/documentaries/historical images.
51. Easy to join up.
52. Easy to borrow.
53. Easy to return.
54. Easy to renew items.
55. Renewals access online and by phone.
56. Important local employers.
57. Longstanding service that’s valued by huge number of members of society.
58. Borrow audio books – CD or tape versions of books, useful for people on the move or hard of sight/blind. Also fun alternative to reading, e.g. if doing housework or communting.
59. Can download (often for free) MP3 audio versions of books
60. Thousands of items.
61. Can order items from other branches. Rich variety available at low cost.
62. Libraries introduced me to some of my most favourite bands (even to this day), such as The Cure, Billy Bragg, New Order, etc.
64. Book displays.
66. Book bags/books free to babies/children if they didn’t get them from health advisor.
67. Schemes to encourage children to read in the summer holidays.
68. Competitions for children – such as prizes for completing summer reading challenge.
69. Some libraries have produced pretty library cards with photos of the local area on (Surrey libraries).
70. Even local councillors use libraries!
72. Schemes to improve literacy in the young and adult.
73. Place to take your kids on a rainy day.
74. Retreat for entertainment when you are low on money, especially if you have a family.
75. Books in other languages.
76. Place to visit in between shopping – convenient, easy, gives you a break.
77. Trained children’s librarians – help with book choices, help with homework, understand children and their needs.
78. Reference section.
79. Get lost in a world of your own.
80. Get directions to local places.
81. Leaflets and other free information on display – about local area, activities, groups, support, local council services, etc.
82. Helpful staff.
83. Staff understand and are sensitive to people who need extra care, like catering for group visits from mental health care homes.
84. School groups can visit – gives kids first taste of library. I still remember my first visit with my class in the mid 80s!
85. Drawing/activities for children.
86. Ordnance Survey Maps.
87. Get information on everything to do with your local council/services, contact details, centres to visit, etc.
88. Good place to take children to get them reading, doing homework, if you struggle to get them to do so at home.
90. Local history.
91. Help with researching your family history.
92. The smell of old books, new books, colourful books, shiny books!
93. Sheet music.
94. Easy to find your way around, or staff to help.
95. Libraries make you think.
96. Libraries inspire.
97. Libraries educate.
98. Libraries comfort.
99. Libraries broaden people’s minds.
100. Libraries improve people’s well being, especially mentally.
101. Libraries are lifelines.
102. Libraries are more vital than ever.