Thursday, March 22, 2018

Public Libraries Are Our Open Universities

Brunswick Public Library from Library Design Showcase 2012: Youth Spaces
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein

Anyone can just walk into a library and learn ... there are no minimum entry requirements, qualifications, criteria or costs -just come on in and browse, sit down and learn in a safe and friendly place or borrow books, films, music, toys and a lot more.

Libraries are free ... not just at the point of access but in terms of what you can learn ... libraries are for freestyle learning ... mix and match subjects, levels and media .... the range is endless and libraries are always extending the scope of what you can do and learn. 

Most of us might think of a library like this
But a library might look like this ... Peckham library
Libraries are diverse ... while all libraries have a common theme that we can recognise they also vary amazingly - their buildings, collections, resources and activities are truly amazing. I was going to list out all the things that libraries do but that would be too much .. just look at one library group I have worked with - Redbridge libraries and see what they have on offer ... craft clubs, digital workshops, health & wellbeing, art exhibitions, performances, presentations, discussions, dance, yoga, careers advice .. anything from knitting to code clubs. Teach Meet Tech, 360 media, virtual reality, virtual realities, robots and 3D printing ... and these are just workshop topics (Thinglabs) and events that I have run in libraries.

Senior learning in one of our inspireNshare workshops
Family learning in one of our inspireNshare workshops

Libraries are for life-long and life wide learning. Children's libraries with books, toys and activities like rhymetime, wiggle and jiggle fun movement, laughter clubs and of course story time. Teen libraries with books, topics and activities relevant to young people - such as careers, mental health, substance abuse, knife crime and violence, abuse, sex, the environment etc. The there are books, topics and activities for parents, the middle aged and the elders among us from fitness to finance, from parenting to pottery ... there are films, discussion groups, workshops .. there is too much to mention ... and of course you can just go in and read a book, magazine or newspaper or use the internet of course. No matter how young or old you are, who or what you are there is something in the library for you.

While Information itself is virtual and capable of being accessed virtually ... i.e. on-line anytime, anywhere like a Martini solitary learning like solitary drinking can lead to problems ... we aren't just brains in a jar - we are mind and body ... we are physical beings and libraries are of course physical places - this is important not only in providing access to cultural artefacts but in maintaining and developing community. Your local public library is just that ... its local and its public ... I always think local means within walking distance and its so important to have a local library within walking distance that any member of the public can walk into.

Meeting spaces, working and co-working spaces, leisure and learning ... libraries are essential in providing community access to knowledge for all citizens but especially the underprivileged who may otherwise not be able to access the information and artefacts of their society. Meeting the needs of everyone and free at the point of delivery - libraries are the National Health System for learning - libraries are our open universities.

“We need to understand libraries as places of education and nourishment for everyone - there is a terrible sense that libraries are just an add-on to a council building, but they save lives. 

A library is one of the few places, in a town or even a large village, where you can go in and immerse yourself in that world. To actually have access to a real collection of books, of literature and reference works from across the ages is really important.”
~ Stephen Fry

"The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history." 
~ Carl T. Rowan


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