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5 Reasons To Love Libraries
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5 Reasons To Love Libraries

When Did You Last Visit Your Local Library?

Since the advent of the internet and search engines, which have given us the ability to explore endless content from all around the world from the comfort of our own home, library visitor numbers have fallen dramatically. You might ask: Does it matter? Are we missing out? The answer to both questions is a very solid, yes!

There are currently approximately 2.8 million libraries around the globe[1], each a treasure trove waiting to be explored – and most of them are free to use. Before we get on to the reasons why a visit to your local library is a good idea, we’ll have a brief look at their history.

A Brief History Of Libraries

Libraries have been in existence in some form or other for about 5,000 years – since humans in southern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) first started writing cuneiform script on clay tablets and discovered they needed to somehow organise and store the written word.

The oldest known library is believed to be the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, which was assembled between 668 and 631 BCE by Ashurbanipal, King of the Assyrians, at his royal palace in Nineveh (in present-day northern Iraq, near Mosul). The library held some 30,000 cuneiform tablets.[2]

The oldest continuously running library is Al-Qarawiyyin library in Fez, Morocco, which dates back to 859 AD. In Britain and Ireland, libraries have existed for around 1,500 years, although, public libraries as we know them today were introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, many of them built and funded by wealthy philanthropists.

5 Reasons To Visit Your Local Library

Far from being boring and stuffy, libraries can be fascinating and fun places to visit for people of all ages. Here are five reasons why you might want to think about taking a trip to your local library:

  1. Libraries Are Free

In a time when many of us are having to watch our pennies, buying books might seem a bit of a luxury. Whether you’re already an avid reader or are looking for an inexpensive – and mind-expanding – pastime for yourself or for children, then look no further than your local library. As well as being free to join, libraries let you borrow books to take home to read – all for free.

  1. Libraries Can Be Magical Places For Kids

“There’s no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” Frank Serafini, Professor of Literary Education and Children’s Literature, Arizona State University.[3]

A visit to the library is a great way to get children interested in reading – and away from digital screens. They can choose a variety of books to take home to read – some they will like, some they won’t – without needing to spend any money. Visiting the library on the same day each week can encourage interest and anticipation and means you will always return your library books on time and thereby avoid any fines for overdue books.

Most libraries also arrange themed displays and events for children, mirroring topics that might be taught at school or that are in the news, such as the current celebration of the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who.

Because it’s never too early to encourage children to begin interacting with books, many libraries hold dedicated sessions for younger children, which again, are usually free to attend. This might include nursery rhyme sessions for under-ones or reading and craft sessions for under-fives.

  1. The Benefits Of Reading A Physical Book

We’ve already touched on the point that a visit to the library is a great way to encourage time away from digital screens, but picking up and reading a physical book offers benefits that can last a lifetime. According to Maryann Wolfe, director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, “Physical books encourage ‘the development of deep reading processes,’ including empathy and critical analysis.”[4] Unlike digital screens, physical books offer no distractions that might divert attention away from the written word.

There is a growing body of research that has found that we comprehend printed text better than digital text[4]. Plus, time away from digital devices can also improve mental health: a study by The University of Sussex’s Mindlab discovered that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by 68%.[5]

  1. The Benefits Of Quiet

The benefits of reading can be boosted further by having somewhere quiet to read. A library provides the perfect environment in which to escape the hubbub of the outside world. For children with younger siblings at home finding somewhere quiet to ready or study can be tricky. Libraries offer safe, warm and comfortable places to study with the added bonus of easy access to books on whatever topic is being studied.

The importance of having a quiet space is backed up by science: a study conducted in 2021 asked 59 participants to perform tasks that required concentration, with either silence, speech, or other noise in the background. The study found that those who worked in silence experienced the least cognitive load and the lowest stress levels.[6]

  1. Libraries Offer More Than Just Books

As well as books on every subject imaginable – and if they don’t have a particular book in stock, they might be able to loan it from another library for you – librarians themselves tend to be full of useful information and are usually willing to help visitors to source and locate books and other information. Away from books and many libraries offer support for the research of local history and family history, including free access for library card holders to websites such as Ancestry or Findmypast.

Many libraries also run courses for adults and children, covering subjects ranging from crafts to coding as well as exhibitions, often with a local theme, and events such as book and poetry readings.

So, if you haven’t visited your local library recently, you might be surprised by what you find there – at the very least you can pick up a book or two to read. To find your nearest library, simply pop your post code in here.

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