Reasons to love your local library – The Irish Times

I must confess this is not a new love. I have always loved libraries. I don’t mean in a cutesy, Netflix romcom, this-is-such-a-quirky-first-date kind of way.

I guess I just mean I use them.

And, in a true love sense, I appreciate and enjoy them and do not take them for granted.

One of my earliest memories is being 2½ and part of our daily routine while my mother was on maternity leave was to walk down the town to the library which at that time was temporarily housed over the courthouse. I don’t remember what it looked like inside (I was two) but I remember my baby sister’s buggy being carried up the stairs and I can remember the books.

That library later moved to a purpose-built, modern, warm and welcoming building up the street. I have clearer memories of this library. Thursday night was late opening and when my parents came home from work, we would be brought in to exchange our books.

In later primary school years, it was an occasional after-school hangout and the source of all of our research for primary school projects. Hard to imagine it now but in the mid 1990s, our info web was as wide as the four walls of the Trim public library. We copied (I mean “researched”) all of the available information on Napoleon or elephants or Helen Keller or the Famine down from books and not the internet.

My love affair with libraries continued in college with the library providing a wonderful place to socialize, outside of the college bar opening hours. And the walls there were lined with computers for you to check your email or Bebo page. What more could you want?

I continued to use libraries throughout my 20s, even in the face of my then boyfriend (now husband) regularly telling me that I was single-handedly keeping the library service alive. This is not true. But if you’re not using a library, you should be. And I’ll tell you why.

The first reason is: they have absolutely loads and loads and loads of books. It’s like a bookshop, except the books are free. If they don’t have the book you want but any other of the 330 branches of the library in Ireland have it, they will get it delivered to the library of your choice. You can view the entire catalog online, see the book’s location, for example “Cavan — Cooteheill”, then request that it is brought to your library, “Clare — Ennistymon” for example.

You can also borrow up to 12 (yes 12) books at a time. All of this for the modest sum of ABSOLUTELY FREE. Not only do they have hard copy books but you can “borrow” audible books (again, for free) on the library app, Borrowbox.

Having fallen out of touch a bit with the library the last few years, we’ve recently been reacquainted and the rekindled love is stronger than ever.

Staring down the barrel of three months of summer entertaining two toddlers, I took to the internet and stumbled on the amazing (can I say again, free) services provided by the libraries.

There are so many activities for children. This month alone, we’ve gone to a toddler play group in Cabra (where there was an art exhibition on the walls for me to enjoy), an interactive dance workshop, an extremely engaging storytelling and art-and-crafts event in Coolock, a puppet performance of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Dolphin’s Barn and an absolutely adorable teddy bear’s picnic which included teddy bears, stories, snacks, songs and games in the beautiful outdoor performance space at Ballyfermot library.

On top of this we have colored pictures and hung out in the children’s corner of various libraries as well as of course borrowing and returning many books.

There is so much on offer for all ages in libraries up and down the country and many libraries have designated quiet times for anyone who might be affected by noise or sensory overload.

For infants, there are baby book clubs, storytime performances and play groups.

Older children (4-7) can enjoy drama classes, bingo parties, yoga, magic shows, puppet shows, coloring competitions, craft sessions, films, quizzes, teddy bear sleepovers, and workshops on teddy bear making or Irish myths and legends.

For older children again (7-12), there are Lego clubs and workshops on music production, illustration, rocket science, computer animation, stop motion animation, geology and Harry Potter.

Services for adults include language exchanges (English, Irish, French, German, Italian, Spanish), audiobook clubs, craft circles, knit clubs, scrabble clubs, a writer’s group, chess club, songwriter’s club, a Men’s Den, guitar jamming sessions and a gramophone circle (where you can relax and listen to music and song. This one seems unique to Holyhill library in Cork.)

Even if you’re not partaking in the activities, libraries are lovely places to be. I once saw an older man in Phibsboro library sitting at a computer, headphones in, seemingly well settled into Cranberries Live in Paris 1999 on YouTube, and if that is not a wonderful use of public services, I don’t know what is.

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