My memories of going to the library are full of excitement and wonder. Walking up and down the aisles, getting lost between the book cases and browsing the shelves are just some of the fun memories. As a child, I often visited the same corners: fiction, poetry, biographies, art, philosophy and literary history. I also ended up reading books I had never known existed. One of the most wonderful thing about libraries is that they make the unimaginable real by hosting books on topics and by authors you have never heard about. When you find yourself in front of such a variety of books, you cannot stop yourself from flipping through the pages. I consider myself lucky for having had language teachers who supported reading and lent us all sorts of books from their own collections. My fortune continued at university where my professors lent me books while I was working on my thesis. And even now, in the age of the Internet and instant access to books, I often find myself sitting in a reading room, looking for new titles, reading journals and newspapers, and discovering new territories.
Teaching in the library
As a teacher, I take my students to the library on library skills lessons and give them tasks to become more confident when using catalogues and browsing the shelves. I am convinced that their knowledge of basic library skills makes them better readers and researchers, and they can also transfer this knowledge to digital research skills. By understanding the organization of book catalogues, all the valuable information found in the front matter and the keywords, students can start thinking about book research in a wider sense.
Also, by having physical contact with hundreds and thousands of books of all shapes and sizes, students can gain a better understanding of how much knowledge and how many stories are out there, waiting for them to find them. Libraries help us create a learning and reading community, and they are also temples of knowledge.
Libraries, reading and language learning
A big local library, a smaller school library or a simple classroom library can be the basis of a lot of fun learning. First of all, by offering books, they offer access to knowledge. Secondly, they also give space to communities and discussions among learners. They become places of discovery, storytelling and knowledge-building. Finally, they teach students practical skills. Students will need to find, check out, look after and return books. By designing fun library activities and involving students in the building and management of the library, you can make this space an essential part of your teaching.
A case for libraries: famous advocates for libraries
A number of well-known authors, artists, musicians, actors and celebrities have recently made a public case for libraries. Library campaigns can be spotted all over the world, and not only local individuals and communities, but well-known figures also donate money as well as express their interest in and love of libraries. Here are some of our favourite examples.
- Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell on why we need libraries – an essay in pictures
- Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming
- Michael Palin donates 22 years' worth of notebooks to British Library
- American Library Association to launch Book Club Central with Sarah Jessica Parker
Here you can see a long list of public library supporters in the UK:
And here you can see a list of famous librarians:
Finally, the home libraries of some famous people:
Read more in our series on libraries:
- A love of libraries: library activities for young learners
- A love of libraries: get active with library tasks
- A love of libraries: 9 steps towards building your classroom library
- A love of libraries: 10 things to consider when building a classroom library