Get to Know Your Library
G’day, fellow readers. Today I would like to reintroduce you to that priceless resource, place of wonder and endangered species in some areas – your local library. Now I have known libraries in Australia and Japan, and apart from the dominating language of the books on the shelves, I have always found libraries to be just as you will read about below.
Whether you are a writer, reader, two-year-old, two hundred-year old, mother, father, butcher, baker or candlestick maker, the library is there for you – it is your place, you are welcome there and you can discover magic inside its doors.
I remember as a small child, aged around four or five, when I lived in a little country town, the mobile library van would come out once a week or so and we could climb up the steps and into a book-laden paradise on wheels. The van was packed to the rafters with books, on shelves, in boxes, on the floor – and we were welcome to climb in, crawl around and explore. We were allowed to borrow a couple of books each and take them away in the certain knowledge that the next week we would see the van again and get a chance to discover new friends and their adventures.
What a happy memory that is for me. Mobile libraries are a thing of the past in that country town, and I suspect, many others.
I have also blogged previously about how important reading to children is, and how to drag kids kicking and screaming into reading like a boss.
I never felt unwelcome at a library, probably because of that early experience. I always felt I could go in, pick a book off the shelf and sit myself down there to comfortably while away an hour or two.
In fact, in my college days and my early working life, if I had time to kill between classes, or shifts (in another life I worked as a lift attendant and Santa Helper at a department store, and sometimes had to work a split shift, with several hours off in the middle of the day), I would often wander down the street to my local library.
It amazes me today, the number of parents, new and experienced, who don’t know that even newborn babies can get their very own library card.
And that libraries offer activities for kids, nursery rhyme mornings, story and craft times, school holiday activities, author visits and more.
Libraries also these days are a great resource for people who don’t have the internet at home – free internet usage, and even tutoring on how to get around it, can be found at the library.
If you are an internet user, you can usually go to your local library’s website and look up books, even put them on reserve, all from home.
For those who aren’t book readers, most libraries stock a good selection of magazines, newspapers, and CDs and DVDs.
For those who can’t get out and about so easily, some libraries I know of offer a volunteer service, where people can order books online or over the phone and a volunteer will bring them to your door, and collect the old ones.
If there is a book you want, and you can’t find it or it is on loan, you can order it – libraries don’t always buy every single new release, but they will often order it in if they get a request for it.
The library staff is highly trained and can often make recommendations for books appropriate for kids – or recommend books in the style of a genre or author that you like. If you go to a library fairly regularly, you will become known to the staff and you will find that they are friendly and willing to help.
Some libraries offer a research service, in which you can bring your questions about Richard the Lionheart’s eating habits, and they will come back to you with all the details you need – this can be great for people writing fiction or non-fiction who need a little professional research help.
Libraries have no dress code, no behaviour restrictions other than the simple rule of live and let live (often translated as don’t disturb other patrons!), no age restrictions, and best of all, they are free! How many places can you go in public as a single mother, with dirt on her shirt from the lunch battle and ragged old tracky dacks, with a squirmy, hands-into-everything toddler, and be not judged, but welcomed as an old friend?
I am a firm supporter of libraries. And I encourage you to be the same. I recently got the opportunity to interview a wonderful librarian at my local library – a fairly small suburban library which is still a hub for the community, hosting kids’ activities, writing and drawing competitions, art exhibitions and regular community events and services. Here are her views on libraries in general and hers in particular:
What is Rhyme Time?
Rhyme Time is a session for babies incorporating action rhymes and songs; its aim is to encourage parents to sing nursery rhymes, play with finger puppets and have fun with the language – an important part in developing baby’s awareness of the sound and rhythm in spoken language and an important foundation for early literacy. But most of all, Rhyme Time is a fun session for babies and parents (at least it is supposed to be) and a great introduction to the library and its resources. A lot of “Rhyme Time” babies “graduate” to Story Time sessions (for toddlers, incorporating reading stories and simple craft activities) and parents continue to bring them to the library to borrow books and use our fantastic collection.
How does this fit in with the Better Beginnings Program?
Rhyme Time sessions were introduced in our library as part of the Better Beginnings program (our first Rhyme Time babies are now at pre-primary school), although some libraries were offering such a program before BB
Better Beginnings is a universal early intervention family literacy program, developed by the State Library of WA and funded by State and local government with the support of the Rio Tinto Future Fund. All of the libraries in the metro area [of Perth, WA] are taking part in the program. In practice, the State library delivers reading packs (yellow bags with a free board book and brochures) to the libraries; the libraries deliver them as requested to Infant Health Centres, and Community Child Care nurses distribute them among the parents during their check-ups. Community nurses are vital for the program as they reach the majority if not all of the families with newborn babies. In addition, we also offer Parent Information sessions – someone from our library comes to the Mothers’ group meeting at the invitation of the Community nurses. Personally, I love those visits, as it gives me the opportunity to talk and talk about books and the library
. [Better Beginnings is designed to improve literacy and lifelong love of reading in children by starting to educate parents and get them involved with reading with their children from birth. Renata actually came and spoke at my new mothers’ group when my daughter was just a few weeks old, courtesy of the child health nurse program, and it was a really useful and informative session – Renata’s love and enthusiasm was really catching!]
What is Story Time?
Story Time is another program for kids and it is an ideal session for toddlers. It is more involved, as in addition to singing we read books and do simple craft activities. At our library, Story Time sessions are on twice a week in the mornings.
Most if not all of the libraries run story sessions – those have been around for years – and many have a weekly Rhyme Time. Also, some libraries offer comprehensive school holiday activities – workshops, visiting performers, etc.
What can the library do for a community – what is a library, in your view?
Many people think that libraries are quiet places: so often people tell me that I’m lucky to work in the library; it must be peaceful and quiet and all those books to read…Our library is not quiet and no, we don’t have time to read! It is a wonderfully dynamic place with lots to offer for everybody. People come here to read papers, borrow books and movies, use our computers for a variety of tasks, scan and email documents, book plane tickets, do banking, job applications and all sorts of things on the net. Kids come after school to wait for a bus or be picked up, parents bring babies in to borrow books or just spend some time out of the house. It does not matter who and why they come to the library everyone is welcome (Gee, I sound like an advertising board!!! But it is true!) Libraries are people’s places, full of things to share.
So get down to your place today and share something with yourself, or your child. And see what your library can offer you.