During BookCamp Halifax 2011, I learned that many people (and, to be honest, I must include myself in this group) don’t take enough advantage of their local public library. Libraries, in general, are not only places where community members can borrow and read print and e-books for free, but they are also a community within themselves that focuses on promoting literacy and education, and creating a social dialogue. The mission of Halifax Public Libraries, in particular, places emphasis on “[c]onnecting people, enriching communities, inspiring discovery.”
Unlike publishers who have the commercial agenda of finding readers for their books, libraries focus on finding books for their readers. Halifax Public Libraries, for example, offers services in addition to book borrowing such as Novelist Book Ideas or “Ask a Librarian” e-branch service. Novelist is a resource database of reading suggestions that can be searched according to your criteria so that you can choose a book that appeals to you. “Ask a Librarian” e-branch service allows you ask for book suggestions and to get help finding resources from home without having to step into the library or see a librarian directly, which is especially helpful for the elderly or disabled, or those who don’t have a branch in their area. Moreover, Halifax Public Libraries offers Home Delivery to those unable to visit a branch due to disability or caregiver responsibility, Books by Mail to those residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) whose area is not served by a library branch, and Interlibrary Loans for those who would like to borrow a book that is unavailable in the Halifax Public Libraries catalogue but is available at a library elsewhere in Nova Scotia or Canada.
Since Halifax Public Libraries services the entire HRM community, as part of that community a reader can become actively involved in building a better library by suggesting books that Halifax Public Libraries can purchase. If there is a book you would like to read that is not currently in the library’s catalogue, or that you think the library should own, you can suggest it to the Halifax Public Libraries’ Readers’ Advisors here. Halifax Public Libraries is always looking for ways in which it can improve its catalogue and readership, and community suggestions are an essential part of that.
Although reading seems like a solitary activity at first glance, reading is also very much a social activity. Halifax Public Libraries makes a point to foster the social aspects of reading through its blog, The Reader, in which the writers discuss books, book issues, book launches and events, and authors, etc. Halifax Public Libraries also advertises public book clubs within the local community, as well as those within the reading and publishing community at large, and book club resources in order to help its readers find like-mined communities and form dialogues surrounding books and the issues that arise from them.
Not only does Halifax Public Libraries bring readers together, but it also brings writers together by hosting various workshops; however, its focus on self-development and education doesn’t stop there. Halifax Public Libraries also offers Adult Literacy and Upgrading and English Language Learning (Ell) tutoring programs, a Children’s Reading Support mentorship program, and its librarians offer online Homework Help and chat to students with questions.
In addition to creating a strong community among its readers, Halifax Public Libraries also works to connect readers with authors by hosting book launches as well as author readings. Book launches in a library setting have a different and more relaxed atmosphere than bookstore launches because they are separated from the commercial experience of book buying where people may feel obligated to purchase. Authors are still given the option to sell books in the library during their book launch, but the launch experience in a library — having been removed from a primarily commercial setting — better reflects the relationship between the writer and the reader as a community of thought and intellectual exchange rather than one built on buying and selling. Halifax Public Libraries has also recently started filming some of its book launches and author readings. These videos are posted online so that those who were unable to attend can still watch and be a part of the author/reader experience. You can watch some of the book launches and author readings held at Halifax Public Libraries here.
For writers who are interested in holding a book launch or a talk at a library in the HRM, please contact David Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kristina Parlee at email@example.com. Halifax Public Libraries will often partner with publishers and authors, and consequently offer the venue for free, but please note that the library needs 2-3 months advance notice for bookings.
For more information about what Halifax Public Libraries offers the HRM, please visit its website, http://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/. You can also follow Halifax Public Libraries on Twitter (@hfxpublib).
If you have anything to add that I’ve missed please leave a comment. Or if you have a story about how libraries have enriched your life, I would love to hear it.