During the recession, free entertainment is an obvious draw for people tightening their belts. Those who might have bought the latest bestseller in the past are now borrowing it for free from their library. Many libraries also offer CD and DVD rental, access to computer games, mother and baby sessions, reading groups and children’s story times. Libraries are much more than just a source of free books; they are a place to go, meet people and access free, or cheap, entertainment.
However, there seems to be much more to this trend than simply keeping ourselves entertained whilst times are tough. The free broadband and computer access in libraries is helping many people not only search for jobs but also fill out and submit online applications, an increasing requirement in an ever digitised world. It’s not just jobseekers who are taking advantage of what libraries have to offer. The last recession in the 1990s saw a massive surge in further education and adult learning as people sought to increase their skills and employability. With their links to community learning and colleges, libraries are set to see an influx of new users looking to benefit from education and retraining opportunities over the coming months.
“Finding the library made a huge difference to my life, I was able to use the computers, enabling me to keep in contact with friends and family, create and print out CVs, search for employment and fill out job applications – something you cannot do at the job centre.”
So it does seem as though many people in Wales are shaking off their ‘dusty’ ideas of what a library is and are turning to them as sources of entertainment, learning and information.
Certainly, a visit to the town centre library will see it packed with a variety of people of all ages and from all backgrounds, reading newspapers, browsing books and using the internet and all in a vibrant and positive atmosphere, something which makes a very pleasant change to the headlines of doom and gloom that seem to face us on a daily basis.
If a recession can have a positive, then it could be that it is helping to re-establish modern libraries as a valued community resource for all generations and that is a legacy that could prove beneficial long after the recession is gone.
To find out more, why not pop in to your local library.