Public libraries – more than ‘just’ books

What a silly title for a blog post. Books are never ‘just’ books. Books are one of the best things in the world, if you ask me. And my parents would have gone bankrupt, had they had to buy all the books I took out from the public library as a kid. And yet, public libraries offer so much more than ‘just’ books.


(Image via Pexels)

As part of this term’s module on ‘Managing Library Services’, I have been thinking about public libraries a lot. Since I started the MSc, I have always been more interested in academic libraries – very predictable perhaps, since I work in higher education. This term, however, has been an eye opener with regards to the millions of things that public libraries do other than lending books.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves of the value of libraries, given the news about the plans of Lambeth Council to turn two of its libraries into gyms. What follows is a random list of some great stuff going on in public libraries – just some articles I’ve come across on the internet. And it’s in no way extensive. Of course it’s not. As I said above, there are millions of innovative things that public libraries do!

1. There is the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme. This is a scheme, delivered by the Reading Agency and the Society of Chief Librarians, by which GPs and other healthcare professionals use self-help reading – with the books being available from the library – to treat mild to moderate mental health conditions. I have just read that the scheme has been extended to young people.

2. A bit further away from home (I did say this would be a random list), San Francisco Public Library’s mobile kitchen, the Biblio Bistro, is used to teach users how to cook food.

3. Libraries also provide information and support for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, for example through the British Library’s Business and IP Centre National Network. The Enterprise Hub run by Northamptonshire Libraries is part of the network and has won the CILIP Libraries Change Lives Award in 2014. (I could go on about this forever as my current assignment is all about enterprise services. Probably best to stop here though.)

4. Once again looking to the States, libraries are hiring outreach workers for homeless users.

5. Back at home, the Library of Birmingham has been the stage for a play – Hamlets.

6. And New York Public Library users can borrow WiFi hotspots, through the Library HotSpot programme, bringing the internet to many people who would otherwise be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

7. Staying with the theme of technology, more and more public libraries offer Makerspace workshops, were users can try out technologies such as 3D-printing. For example, looking to my home country, the Cologne Public Library.

There we go – just a few examples. I would love to hear about other examples of libraries being innovative. This list has the potential to become very long!



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