Li­braries have changed – and for the bet­ter

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

HAVE you been in a pub­lic li­brary re­cently? Some­one sug­gested that I read Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. Never heard of her or the book so I called into a pub­lic li­brary near me. They told me it was out but that they would email me when it was avail­able. And true to their word, some days later the email ar­rived, in­form­ing me that the book was in the li­brary and they would hold it un­til July26.

How the world of li­braries has changed? They have gone from be­ing stuffy off-putting pseudo-schol­arly scary build­ings to be­ing warm and wel­com­ing places, where you can fall into a soft chair and read to your heart’s con­tent.

Many of them of­fer a wide se­lec­tion of daily na­tional and UK news­pa­pers. The li­brary has be­come the per­fect place to re­lax and have a free read of a hard-copy news­pa­per.

And the staff could not be friend­lier or more help­ful. Did you know that you can now re­turn a li­brary book at any of the State’s pub­lic li­braries? So, say I bring Kubler-Ross’ book to Kerry with me and fin­ish it there, I can de­posit it in any li­brary in Kerry. If your pub­lic li­brary does not have a re­quested book they can search in any of the State’s pub­lic li­braries for it and get it to you.

And all of these fa­cil­i­ties are avail­able for free once you have a li­brary card, which is eas­ily ob­tained. With that card you can bor­row books from all the pub­lic li­braries within the State and in­deed, avail of all the other fa­cil­i­ties they of­fer. The card is akin to the Travel Pass with fewer restric­tions on it.

It also al­lows you to read many of the world’s press on­line. If you download an app called PressReade­r, sup­ply de­tails of your li­brary card when prompted, hey presto, up jumps a myr­iad lo­cal and na­tional news­pa­pers from around the world. I have seen Indian, Cana­dian, and even Wick­low and Kerry news­pa­pers on it. You can read away to your heart’s con­tent and all for

free. If you pre­fer to read a hard copy, then you can print it off.

The State’s pub­lic li­braries also of­fer an on­line reading ser­vice, called Bor­rowBox, which gives ac­cess to a large se­lec­tion of books, ei­ther in text or au­dio format.

A num­ber of li­braries also of­fers a ser­vice out­side nor­mal work­ing hours. It’s called ‘My Open Li­brary’ and of­fers ac­cess to a li­brary on a self-ser­vice ba­sis from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

It is to fa­cil­i­tate peo­ple so that they can avail of li­brary ser­vices at times that suit them.

This ser­vice be­gan as a pi­lot project in des­ig­nated li­braries in Of­faly and Sligo in 2014. It is cur­rently be­ing rolled out across the State and will be ex­tended to a to­tal of 100 li­braries by 2022 and a fur­ther 200 by 2027.

Isn’t it in­ter­est­ing how so of­ten we miss what is right in front of our noses. Our pub­lic li­braries are a gem. Use them. Drop into your lo­cal li­brary and sur­prise your­self. And note the friendly wel­come you will re­ceive.

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