Why are libraries important

Eight reasons why libraries are so popular

Last year the Munich City Library set a historic record: over five million visits! But the number of users is not only increasing here: In June, the American Pew Research Center published a study that states that libraries are particularly popular with millennials (the generation born around the turn of the millennium). Why it is like that? We have a few guesses ... you know other reasons? Then put it in the comments - we look forward to all comments and additions!

1. Everyone is equal in the library

Basic Law, Article 5
(1) Everyone has the right to freely express and disseminate his or her opinion in words, writing and images and to obtain information from generally accessible sources without hindrance. [...]

Poor or rich, middle school or high school, German passport or not, man or woman: Societies like to sort their members according to origin, milieu, gender, level of education, etc. Libraries don't do that. Nobody has to identify themselves, register or explain when entering a library. Anyone can come, be there and use the offers - media and services - on site, completely free of charge. The terms “low-threshold”, “inclusive” and “diverse” do not represent hollow phrases for libraries, but their social model.

Where else can you go that offers all this for free? Whether you're in a three-piece suit or a three-day beard, you can go into a library and be welcomed. (Jareen Imam, "Libraries are dying? Think again," CNN)


2. Here I am human, here I can be.

The sentence comes, you probably know, from Goethe's "Faust": After all sorts of whining ("Here I stand, I poor Thor! And am as clever as before") Faust ventures out into the world on the famous Easter walk . The sight of the many different people indulging in existence unencumbered by work, everyday life and religion moves him to the famous exclamation.

Certainly not in the same words, but we also know this sentence from our users: Libraries offer people space for whom there is space at home, concentration (“actually I should / could still tidy up the kitchen ...”) or the necessary peace and quiet research, reading and learning are lacking. Libraries guarantee the privacy of the individual and are still public space: You can be for yourself and with others at the same time (see also “Free spaces, new communities” here in the blog for the term co-presence). Libraries have no stupid questions, wrong topics and no wrong look. And above all, they are not really interested in the wallet of their users: libraries were “third places” long before this catchphrase was on everyone's lips. They are commercial-free rooms from top to bottom, there is no advertising, nobody wants to sell you anything. In libraries, people are not perceived and taken seriously as consumers, but solely as citizens.

Libraries are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen, instead. (Caitlin Moran, "Libraries: Cathedrals of our Souls," Huffington Post)



3. Right in the middle instead of just being there

A direct consequence of the openness of libraries is the social diversity that one finds there. Young and older people, poor and rich, women and men, Christians, Muslims and Jews: they are united by their private presence in a public place that they have visited of their own free will and on their own initiative, where they can pursue their individual interests and where they often meet like-minded people. This is how communities are formed whose basis is not origin, skin color or milieu, but rather cultural practices such as learning and playing, reading and research.

Since it is the task of libraries to meet the needs of as many users as possible, they not only depict the social reality of a city or a community in an ideal-typical manner, but also think more and more about how they can actively participate of the population can continue to improve. All users usually notice that too quickly: that libraries are not there for books, but for people.

They help bridge the digital divide, invest in early literacy and lifelong learning, increase language skills and serve as civic hubs. (Matt A.V. Chaban, "Libraries Can Be More Than Just Books," New York Times)

I think it's simply that we are asking the community what they want from their library, and we are listening. (Liz Dwyer, "How Libraries Won Over The Heart Of Millennials," Good Education)


4. Libraries are awesome!

Libraries make you happier, more relaxed, sexy, more social, and more tech-savvy. Libraries look amazing and break world records. Superheroes, famous people, tattoo nerds, hippsters, comic artists and all sorts of other clever guys work in libraries. And not to forget:

Think about it: they employ people whose whole job is to make sure you not only can find what you're looking for, but to help you sort through what you find. How awesome is that? Pretty darn awesome. (Emma Cueto, "Libraries Are Surprisingly Popular, and Oh Yeah, They Also Make You Awesome," Bustle)

5. In tune with the times

The days when libraries only lent out printed books are long gone. Every new medium that comes onto the market can quickly be found in the offerings of a library. That was the case with CDs and DVDs and currently also applies to Blurays; the stock of music, films and series in a city library can usually easily compete with commercial offerings. Magazines and games (analog and digital) can of course also be found on the shelves. And of course eBooks, no question about it: For example, we've been lending out digital books and magazines since 2007, and last year we once again significantly expanded our stock of English-language eBooks; not to forget our expertise in databases and research sources (information flyer "digital offers"). Some libraries go further by lending equipment or tools - we can, for example, borrow Orff instruments.

In addition, there are the on-site services: in libraries there is free, free W-LAN and sufficient work and reading spaces and inexpensive coffee. The program of events is usually rich and varied, so there is something for everyone, and participation is mostly free. Ranging from readings, picture book cinemas and language games for children to multimedia workshops and digital action weeks for young people to bilingual readings, film screenings in original languages ​​and exhibitions as well as digital consultation hours for digital immigrants and language cafés for German learners.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is fundamentally to miss the point. (Neil Gaiman, "Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming," The Guardian)


6. Sharing is caring

When the media discovered the sharing culture as the latest trend, many libraries couldn't believe their ears: Uh, we've been doing that for centuries ...?!? Because of providers such as Uber and Airbnb, the reputation of sharing has now suffered significantly; the suspicion that a few are earning a golden nose at the expense of the community cannot be dismissed.

Libraries oppose this by continuing to regard the sharing and common use of culture (goods) as the basis of their work and as a social necessity. Borrowing is not only cheaper but also more sustainable than buying - this is not only good news for price-conscious people, but also for environmentally conscious people. Access to several million books, films, games, CDs, etc. for 20 euros a year - where can you get that? With us, of course 🙂

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. (Neil Gaiman, "Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming," The Guardian)


7. Completely legal awareness raising

Today's society is so much more flexible and mobile than in previous generations. Who has been doing the same job all their life and living in the same place all their lives? The need to keep pace with developments, but also the intrinsic curiosity and desire for the unknown, the unheard of and the broadening of horizons serve libraries in an excellent way - from do-it-yourself manuals to e-learning courses. Libraries offer support and inspiration for all situations in life and hearts. They happily burst filter bubbles, tear down boards in front of their heads and let a lot of fresh air into dusty drawers. Over and over and over again.

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. (Caitlin Moran, "Libraries: Cathedrals of our Souls," Huffington Post)


8. Social responsibility

After the recent general election, there was an uproar among the population. Some wanted to join political parties, others wanted to donate more, and collect third parties' signatures. The need to take on social responsibility through whatever kind of commitment to civil society or the local community seems to be moving more and more into awareness. It goes without saying that libraries are perfect partners for this, see above: Libraries offer public privacy, they are on-site and mobile, they distribute and do not have to take anything for it, they are flexible and consistent, they can digital and analog, they are inclusive and offensive. You know many stories and make everyone heard.