5 Common Myths About Libraries

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Who doesn’t love a good MythBusters episode, especially when it’s library-related? We certainly do! Here are five common misconceptions about libraries and why they’re just myths, not realities. 

Myth #1: Libraries are about books and books only.

While this might be true in the old (oooold) days, today’s libraries are about more than just books. Apart from other audiovisual materials such as DVDs and CDs, you can also borrow console games and graphic novels as well as access numerous e-resources. Some libraries take it even further and loan other things such as bicycles, power tools, and even dogs!

  • Read about Outside the Lines, a week-long celebration of creative library events hosted by American libraries to re-engage their communities beyond just books.

Myth #2: You have to be silent in libraries.

Quiet ZoneIn the past few decades, libraries have evolved from a place where you can read and borrow books into more of a community gathering space. Most libraries have dedicated rooms or areas for meetings, collaboration, learning, and IT and networking, many of which you can book for your own use. As long as you’re not being disruptive and respect quiet zones, most librarians wouldn’t mind a bit of sound. 

Myth #3: Libraries don’t help authors and publishers.

It’s a common assumption that authors and publishers don’t get anything when you borrow their book from the library. This is simply untrue – libraries do contribute in their own way to the industry:

For one, Australian libraries spend more than $400 million on print and e-books every year. Doing this helps deliver different authors and their works into the hand of readers, and those who borrow books also tend to buy them. Author talks in libraries can also be an additional source of income for writers.

Libraries also function as an archive of research materials for writers in the middle of their work.

Myth #4: Librarians spend their day reading and shelving books.

Library ecardsToday’s libraries are now community centres for parents, children, teachers, students, retirees, homeless citizens, business owners, learners, researchers, and a lot more patron groups – definitely not just a repository for books.

Librarians might shelve books as a part of their day-to-day activities, but that’s only a small percentage of their job. As a librarian puts it:

When I’m at the reference desk, I can usually be found answering technology questions, helping high school students with research papers, showing someone how to create a resume, making book suggestions, notarizing documents, and restarting the public print station for the tenth time in an hour. And when I do have time away from the desk, you can find me planning the summer reading program, training coworkers, relabeling books, writing blog posts, or prepping for a high school book talk. Point being, there’s a lot of stuff going on at the library, and even though I wish I could spend my days reading, I can’t.

Myth #5: Libraries are becoming obsolete.

Library-Study-RoomWe’ve all heard the argument before: Why go to a library when you have the internet? But this argument doesn’t work when you consider that a library has other functions than just an archive for information.

Even then, the internet might be more easily accessible, but there are still lots to consider. Is your resource valid and up-to-date with the most current facts and statistics? Most libraries offer access to huge databases of scholarly research articles, many of which would quite a bit if you were to purchase them on your own. Furthermore, a librarian might be able to point you in the right direction sooner than going through pages and pages of Google search results.

There’s also the fact that libraries offer services and events for the community that no one else does. Story time for kids, digital literacy classes, career talks, makerspaces, free access to computers and the internet – all these things are a huge part of what the library provides for their local community.

What other myths about the library have you heard? 

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