Letter RE: Aug. 5 guest editorial “Tomorrow’s library not just a book warehouse”

Monday, August 19 2013

Aaron Holmes’s editorial “Tomorrow’s library not just a book warehouse” implies that he needs to visit the Gabriola library where he will discover that today’s library is not “just a book warehouse,” or a space for storage.

It is true that the ways in which people access information and entertainment have changed radically. Electronic media have made information – and misinformation and disinformation – about just about everything easily available. Most people have access to the Internet from home, but for those who haven’t, the library makes it available, not only by providing the technology, but also by providing assistance and instruction on how to search and locate resources. Similarly, recreational reading is now available via e-books, also downloadable from the library. However, readers’ needs are many and various, many not available electronically at any price. So what roles does the library fulfill?

Libraries exist to support the recreational and educational needs of readers. The public library meets these needs in many ways, including offering access to the Internet, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, literacy-enhancing activities for kids, CDs and DVDs and much, much more – even old-fashioned books, which still seem to be in demand. Witness the request lists for new books and the perpetual circulation of all books from patron to patron. People browse, or they read a review, or a friend recommends a book and they go online to put a hold on it. 

You will see the librarian reading stories to children and patrons asking the librarian for reference help and book suggestions. You will see people sitting comfortably reading a newspaper, and you will see people checking job boards online. You will see notices announcing upcoming events. You will also see people browsing the shelves looking for mystery, history, biography, geography, general fiction, bestsellers, Booker Prize winners – in other words, looking for books. 

Holmes’s suggestions about practical skills that might be offered by the library as a way to “have a community supported learning institution with live experts” seems to overlook the fact that Gabriola has a wealth of live experts who already offer ‘personalized instruction’ on all the topics he names. There is no need for our library to compete with the classes, workshops and learning opportunities readily available on the “Isle of the Arts.” 

We are happy to report also that the Gabriola library, along with all public libraries, already offers the amenities he says are what communities need.

Finally, may we claim, that at its core, no matter the form they take, the library is about books, about reading, about literacy and, along with Jorge Luis Borges, we believe that “Paradise will be a kind of library.”

~ Submitted by Wendy Strachan, on behalf of the Friends of the Gabriola Library