Thanks to our guest blogger, Megan Clark, the public services librarian at the Yellowknife Public Library.
October is Canadian Library Month and every year a different theme is chosen. This year’s theme is: A Visit Will Get You Thinking. The Yellowknife Public Library is such a lively and exciting place that my work day includes an abundance of thoughts about libraries. Today I highlight just two principles of librarianship that guide my days. These speak to what I love best about public libraries.
The Right to be Curious
One of the things I have always loved about the public library is that one — usually fairly plain, fairly rectangular — space can house such a diversity of ideas and people. Two people can enter the library with widely different interests and both find something that satisfies their curiosity.
Libraries are a place where spontaneous and self-directed learning is encouraged. Much of our education is highly structured. Often training and learning as an adult is associated with economics (get a job, keep a job, get training for a better job). These goals can be furthered in a library where there are plenty of resources for students and job seekers alike. Libraries also allow you to pursue many interests that have nothing to do with making a living. You have to return the books, but you can keep the ideas.
The Right to Public Space
The library is also one of a community’s last bastions of true public space. This space is free to enter, and free to stay and spend time in. It is open to everyone. It is a place where you are a citizen and not a consumer. The use of the space fluctuates constantly. In one day one library table can house students studying, caregivers reading with their children, and someone taking a quiet moment in a safe and warm place.
In the course of one day the library will welcome politicians, prospectors, and philosophers. It can transform into a second home for toddlers, teens, and tourists. The open and welcoming nature of a library means that you will encounter people from all walks of life. This is deeply democratic and essential to creating a healthy and vibrant community.
Of course there are many other thoughts and reflections to have on the value and uniqueness of a public library and I encourage you to stop by. After all, a visit will get you thinking.