Why Libraries Are Still the Best Place to Hang Out
With the multitude of advantages that technology offers these days—from online movie or TV show streaming to eBooks—it’s not unusual to come across individuals with the misguided notion that libraries are a thing of the past. On the contrary, in Canada, libraries are thriving more than ever from its humble beginnings. The first library ever recorded in the country dates back to 1606 in Port Royal in Quebec City to a scholar and advocate named Marc Lescarbot. By 18th and 19th centuries, libraries were maintained in settlements, fur trade, or military posts in various locations, including Vancouver Island, Fort Chipewyan in Alberta, and Halifax in Nova Scotia.
Today, a total of 16,332 libraries nationwide exists based on the statistics compiled by the National Statistic Profile of Canadian Libraries. This figure includes national and public libraries, as well as university, college, and school libraries. Libraries are not merely for booklovers anymore since Canadian libraries have come a long way, especially public libraries. In fact, according to researchers from Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf, the country has actually one of the best public library systems in the world based on a study of libraries in 30 major cities. Three Canadian cities ranked in the Top 10. Here’s a look at why your local library is a cool spot to hang out.
No surprise here—they have tons and tons of books within your reach!
Of course, libraries were established in the first place to hold books and make them available to the public, and books are still their most valuable commodity. According to a 2011 research conducted by the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC), an American non-profit cooperative organization, for 2010, there were a staggering 2,100,000 books borrowed from Canadian public libraries, which is twice as many books bought from bookstores. And libraries can also help you save on movie tickets as they offer loads of DVDs of movies (as well as TV shows) which are available for borrowing too.
They embrace technology.
While books in their traditional format will always have a special place in the hearts of libraries, they know that it pays to be receptive to new technology. They recognize the public’s ever-growing preference for digital reading materials and thus offer books in electronic formats with the help of online or cloud-based library service providers like Bibliotheca, which has a collection of 60,000 audiobooks in their system and over 100,000 of eBooks from major publishers. The demand for audiobooks has indeed grown dramatically over the last few years. This year, 61 per cent of Canadian publishers release audiobooks as compared from only 37 per cent in 2016.
They offer free Internet.
While most Canadian households these days have Internet access at home, some individuals prefer to go online in libraries, and thus people tinkering away on their laptops or MacBooks is a common sight. Some are students like you who want to stay focused on school work and avoid all possible distractions at home, while some are individuals who simply want to surf the Net without any disturbances. Those with no laptops or MacBooks need not fret since Canadian libraries offer over 8,500 Internet workstations, which are used over 18 million times annually. Some also provide photocopying, scanning, and printing services.
They offer many fun activities.
Libraries these days also offer a variety of worthwhile activities that truly engage a wide audience. These include book discussions, programming or coding workshops, computer classes, 3D printing classes, language classes, film showing, storytelling, author talks, arts and crafts workshops, poetry readings, and a slew of others. Some even hold art exhibits or galleries, like the TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library in Ontario. Libraries are also committed to celebrating with Canadians during popular holidays. For instance, this year, the Newfoundland and Labrador libraries launched a “blind date with local authors” by making books covered in brown paper available for borrowing to mark Valentines Day.
They provide community services.
Another advantage that public libraries offer these days are community services like newcomer or settlement services and employment services. According to OCLC, every month, 204,000 Canadians seek help at their public library for job search, while 76,000 business owners and employees use public library resources to support their small businesses. In addition, public libraries offer free use of private rooms that provide the ideal atmosphere for study groups, business meetings, conferences, and negotiations. For example, the Central Library in Halifax is a popular spot for entrepreneurs to meet with potential investors for coffee, and the ambiance is conducive for sealing the deal.
After reading this, hopefully you’re now convinced that your local library offers more than books and you’ll drop by sooner than later.