What’s your favorite thing about libraries?


The tree in the children’s area.

One of my favorite places to take my children is the library. We always have fun there, whether it’s picking up a book, or going to a library program (our libraries tend to have lots of programs: story times, puppet shows, reptile man, Lego club).

Recently, the kids and I were at one of our new favorite libraries, South Bowie branch in Prince George’s County, Maryland. It’s brand new and has a tree in the children’s room and a great big fireplace in the adult room.  It’s a cozy place to hang out and read.  Additionally, libraries are a great place for kids to read, whether they could afford to buy their own books or not. Author Neil Gaiman discussed the importance of libraries here last fall.

So, having recently been at my favorite library, I thought I’d take a minute to list some of my favorite things about libraries.

    • Lots of books.Well, OK, this is the most obvious, but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it can’t be on the list.
    • Really nice people. TV and movie librarians have given the profession a bad rap.  If you believed the movies, these women (and yes, in the movies they tend to be women) should probably be bald  (pulling your hair that tight in a bun on a regular basis in real life would lead to hair loss).  They shhh and give good meaning kids nasty looks. Sorry, so not true. Yes, librarians do call for quiet when they’re concerned the level of noise will disturb patrons, but this isn’t all they do. They answer questions, run library programs (such  as book discussions and computer classes or story times for children), and even suggest good books.  Finally, librarians, at least the ones I’ve met, tend to be really nice and really helpful. Well, yeah, you might say, ‘it’s their job to be helpful,’ but I still think, on a whole, people who’ve decided to work around books for a living, have a certain inherent giving spirit.
    • Cool Programs. I touched on this briefly in the last item when I said that librarians ran programs. I’ve been to libraries in the local DC area as well as back home in Illinois, and I even covered the library beat (yes, there is such a thing) when I worked for the Kansas City Star. Libraries are there to serve the community and they really go out of their way to do it. Some of the best memories my kids have are at library programs. Each year, for the summer program, our library system hires the Reptile Man, who brings giant boa constrictors, alligators and other reptiles to the library for display. We’ve seen puppet shows at the library. When I was at home visiting my parents one year, we took my kids to an Angry Birds program at the Peoria, IL libraries. The kids contsructed a pig “structure” with blocks then got to throw stuffed angry birds at it to destroy it. And they got to decorate an angry birds cookie with icing and sprinkles. My local library system runs a Lego building club for kids, book discussions for adults and one writing group I’m in is run by a local librarian and meets at the library.
    • Germophobes can e-checkout. I have one friend who hated the library due to germs. She was like, “ick.” She shows me articles like this one about how Herpes germs were found on library copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. However, with most libraries using some type of online catalog (usually Overdrive), people who think it’s disgusting to touch books strangers have touched, can get their library fill electronically. They just get their book downloaded to their machine and no one has touched it. Woo hoo! (The only downside with electronic books is that you can’t keep the book and pay the fine. It goes back on the due date. I was lying in be one night when my husband cursed beside me. It’s 12:01 am, he’d hit next page on his e-reader, and it said, “This item has been returned.”)
  • The fireplace at the South Bowie library. Cozy.

    The fireplace at the South Bowie library. Cozy.

    Better Design. When I was a kid, I remembered libraries as being kinda clogged and downtrodden. Modern libraries tend to try to look more reminiscent of the big bookstore chains, placing comfy seating and nooks around so you pull up a book and sit a spell. This is particularly true in kids areas, I’ve noticed. That’s a good thing. The library I mentioned earlier, South Bowie, is so awesome it even has a drive through. Yes siree! Among my mom friends, this new spread like wildfire. If you have kids, several of them, of different ages it is, you know what a hassle it can be to get two, three or four people who never want to do the same thing at the same time, out of the car to go return or pickup library books. So, the drive-thru is like the best thing ever. Just, drop and run without dragging the entire crew into the building

So, that’s my list. Does anyone have anything to add? What are your favorite things about libraries?



About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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2 Responses to What’s your favorite thing about libraries?

  1. Jeri says:

    Libraries are more and more often referred to as media centers. Though I don’t go too often, I remember being ecstatic back in the day when I realized they library had DVDs and CDs. A new library is being built in m town and I can’t wait to see it. The current one is old, smelly, and pretty dusty.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      It’s interesting, when I was a kid, I remember the libraries being dingy and unpleasant. I think libraries have done a lot to renovate their physical buildings and their images. They’re cool places now, a lot of them redesigned like bookstores. Hopefully your new library will be in that model. A warm and inviting place for people who like books, a place that encourages young people to love books.

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