Wednesday, 4 December 2013

I love libraries (Part Three) by Cally Phillips

Real and virtual, public and private. 

This is the final part of my three part ‘I love libraries’ post and I promised to tell you more about online library facilities.  For someone living rurally as I do, online libraries are a) vital and b) a life-changer.  Getting access to them though… not so easy.  As long as I sign on for an educational course I can get access and I’ve done this with Portsmouth University for my second Masters and with the Open University for a range of short courses. The courses are good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the LIBRARY I’m signing up for.  Access to historical and current periodicals and research databases is vital to my life and while I’d rather all the information was available for free, if I take into account what it would cost me in time and money to travel to public or university facilities to access what can be accessed physically, it’s still better value to sign up for a course and use the online library.  Yes you have to keep your ‘searching’ and ‘database’ skills up to date but the wonders you can find.  The internet is great for a lot of free things but there is loads more that you just can’t find.  And this is always the stuff I want to find. 

In my opinion this is what a real library should
look like. It's the Ewart, Dumfries
But lets not forget, and it’s a case of last but definitely not least, public libraries.  I believe I was first taken to a public library before I was two years old. I’ve been a pretty regular visitor ever since. Apart from when at university or working in London using subscription libraries, I’ve been a ‘ticket holder’ all my life.

The twelve years I lived in Dumfries and Galloway were great. The public library service there is wonderful.  I’ve even won an award from (and for) Dumfries Library Services.  My joint project ‘get a life’ with Dumfries Library services won a national Cilip Award in 2003.  And enabled me to see ‘behind the scenes’ in the Ewart Library.   I made some good friends at the Ewart Library and I’d like to apologise to all those library staff who always had to go into the ‘store’ for just about every book I ever took out of there.  

Or this. Castle Douglas Library 
My ‘local’ library was Castle Douglas and in it I found some real gold dust in the form of local literature.  During my time in Dumfries and Galloway, I ran workshops, seminars, launches and all manner of ‘events’ in and around libraries.  I was a kind of library ‘groupie’ if you like. I don't even care if it's cool. I love libraries and I'm not afraid to say it. 

Moving to Aberdeenshire, and times moving on, I found another excellent library service. Here, the service is spread over a wide geographical area and you can FOR FREE reserve books online which are delivered to your own local library. I probably keep more than one person in a full time job doing that.  It’s a shame that the libraries aren’t open all day every day, but at least you can still get the books within a week – planning is essential for the efficient use of library services!

Aberdeenshire have also moved with the times and have a digital library, where you can download ebooks onto your ereader (not Kindles of course, they don’t like that sort of thing).  And even more importantly, you can download a huge range of FREE magazines.  This is incredible. I can’t afford to buy regular computer magazines though I do like to read them, and the library services now mean I can get hold of such things, and the New Scientist, The Economist and various others each week or month for free.  They were even giving out free TV guide magazines, but I think they’ve been withdrawn. 

I guess it’s swings and roundabouts and I’m happy that where so much information is held out of reach by academic institutions (not their fault it’s the licensing of academic publishing to blame) then getting some ‘popular’ stuff for free redresses the balance somewhat.

Turriff Library. As homely as a library
can be. 
But all in all, I guess if you’re wondering where I am – look for me in a library or a virtual library and you’ll find me most of the time.  For me the best thing about current technology is that I can sit writing at my desk and just hop over to a virtual academic library when I need to look for something and then with another click reserve something online from the Aberdeenshire Network and when it’s time for a coffee break, download a free magazine.  Beats Facebook any day!

Looking back, I’m not quite sure why I didn’t just get a job in a library and be done with it. I’m sure I would have loved my work, given how much I love libraries.   


My final message is: Libraries are for life, not just for Christmas. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s remind ourselves just how important libraries really are for a good life! 

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22 days to Christmas!
Bah! Humbug!
(Since Cally doesn’t believe in Christmas.)
Believe or not, 22 days to the Authors Electric discount on books!



3 comments:

Chris Longmuir said...

I love libraries too, Cally. When I was about 10 or 11 I decided to read my way through Brechin Library starting at the first rack, bottom shelf and working my way up and inwards. Needless to say that task remains unfinished!

Bill Kirton said...

Yes, Cally, I'm a member of your club, too. I'm frequently like a kid at Bah Humbug when I log on with some esoteric question about snuff-taking in 1841 or the state of the turnpikes in Cromarty in the same era and actually get an answer. Better still, it seems that real librarians love to be faced with the challenge of finding such information and there's always one who knows exactly which shelves to browse along. (The danger then is that you find all sorts of other interesting books and the morning slips away as you read about all sorts of arcane practices - great way to spend the time, though.) And actually reading and taking notes at a desk among bookshelves feels like a guilty pleasure.

julia jones said...

Another lovely post in praise of libraries. Is it that libraries in Scotland are better funded / more highly valued? Essex had a good record of supporting its libraries and record office but the situation in other English counties does sound grim