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Do people still go to the library?

Published on 12/03/18

Cambridge is home to a number of amazing libraries, Cambridge University Library being one of them. Unfortunately, modern day libraries are underappreciated by many. There are many reasons to visit your local library. Modern libraries are much more than books and quiet reading. As well as giving you access to countless books, videos and other materials for free, libraries are community hubs. From book clubs and literary discussions to celebrations marking national holidays and appearances by lecturers, poets, novelists and other experts, even the smallest library hosts an array of exciting local events.

World Book Day may have been and gone, this year’s event took place on Thursday 1st March, but we thought we’d shine the spotlight on the library, one facility that may not always get the praise it deserves.

The history of the library

Libraries have long been a part of civilisation, but their history may be more far reaching than you realise. In the ancient world, the library and archive room were considered to be the same thing. However, the very first true library is described here by Encyclopaedia Britannica:

“A temple in the Babylonian town of Nippur, dating from the first half of the 3rd millennium BC, was found to have a number of rooms filled with clay tablets, suggesting a well-stocked archive or library. Similar collections of Assyrian clay tablets of the 2nd millennium BC were found at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt. Ashurbanipal (reigned 668–c. 627 BC), the last of the great kings of Assyria, maintained an archive of some 25,000 tablets, comprising transcripts and texts systematically collected from temples throughout his kingdom.”

Library workThanks to this long history, libraries are often seen by many as relics of the past. This may colour modern society’s opinion on these repositories of knowledge. Yet, those who haven’t visited a library for a while may be surprised by what they find.

How people access books is changing

How people read and access books differs greatly from how literature and other information was accessed 50 or indeed 500 years ago. Thanks to digital technology, every scrap of information we could ever need is at our fingertips. A simple Google search can offer us the answer to almost any question.

As well as accessing books online, the latest devices provide the perfect platform to enjoy our favourite titles. Even with all of these avenues, people are still reading print books.

The sales of physical, print books now outperform digitally downloadable titles. In 2016, over 360 million print books were sold. As the sale of physical books rose by 7%, the downloading of eBooks fell by 4% according to Nielsen’s annual books and consumer survey.

The library is evolving

Despite the rising sales of printed titles, libraries are embracing the digital era. As a result, alongside the usual shelves (and shelves) of print books, you’ll find an up to date collection of rentable multimedia. Computing facilities are another staple in the modern day library.

Libraries today are so much more than ultra-quiet places to get your homework completed or take in a few chapters of your favourite book. They are multi-purpose learning environments that are well-equipped to cater to the needs of the community, So this World Book Day, why not celebrate in style by reacquainting yourself with your local library?