Keeping libraries relevant — HPL

Recently one of Hamilton’s councillors asked “At a time when youths can Google an answer on a computer or phone, why is a library necessary?”. I have to admit, Councillor Skelly asks a lot of questions I find… stupid. Yes, that’s insulting but it’s a fact. She is one of those people that I honestly believe doesn’t think a lot before she speaks. She also recently asked that the HSR investigate putting bike racks on buses, something HSR buses have had for over 4 years now.

But I was flabbergasted at this question. Why is a library necessary? Let that sink in for a moment. In a day and age when many are saying kids are too sequestered in their own homes and don’t get out enough. When there are movements to get kids playing again instead of sitting in front of computer screens, Councillor Skelly suggests that we don’t really need libraries and kids (and adults) can just ‘Google it’. That in itself bothers me, but there’s far more to this problem.

As with the bike rack issue it shows that Councillor Skelly does not understand the resources available in a city where her job is to represent the citizens that elected her. I could go on and on about how important I think physical books and reading are, how my own children love reading and use it as a way to wind down, escape, after long days of working and studying. How much joy it brings them. However even that is not the real problem here.

The real problem is the Hamilton Public Library is a shining example of exactly how a library can remain relevant in a digital world and Councillor Skelly seems blissfully unaware of that fact. I’m going to admit that my knowledge of what our library offers is probably not comprehensive, but it is obviously exponentially more than Skelly’s knowledge.

Digital Media Labs

The Hamilton Public Library has Digital Media Labs offering access to spaces, hardware and software in a number of areas that are very relevant in a digital world (hence the name). Many of the things offered are expensive and out of the reach of the average person to own themselves. Audio and video gear, printing equipment, digital illustration hardware and software, 3D printing, textiles, software and hardware to learn coding, the list goes on.

Not only do they offer the equipment and software many cannot afford to own, they offer courses on how to use it. My daughters are paying exorbitant university fees to get an education, the Hamilton Public Library is educating kids and adults for free!

Online Resources

Among other things the HPL has an agreement with Lynda.com, a premium online learning resource, that allows library card holders full access to their online learning courses. Lynda.com costs $19.99 US a month (for the basic access). Hamilton Public Library card holders get that wonderful resource for free.

There are a number of normally paid online resources that HPL offers its users just for being card holders. Online encyclopaedias, news readers, career counselling services, and much more.

Other Resources

A piano practice room, computers and public wi-fi access, the ability to book a librarian for one on one help with library resources or specific computer use help, community resource workers, help for newcomers to our community. Honestly this list is extensive, the Hamilton Public Library seems to have resources to help in just about any aspect of life. Like I said earlier, my knowledge of what is available is limited, and even what I do know impresses me.

Libraries ARE relevant

Not only are libraries relevant in this digital world, I believe they’re essential. They offer a quiet place to work, meet and collaborate. They offer services that many cannot afford on their own.

Even if libraries were just a collection of books, and the Hamilton Public Library is certainly far more than that, they would still be relevant and important.

I strongly suggest Councillor Skelly start educating herself, or at the very least thinking before she speaks. Building a great community is so much more than dollars and cents, and the Hamilton Public Library is a shining example of community building and how a library can remain relevant in a digital world.

Beyond that I strongly urge you to tell Councillor Skelly that libraries ARE relevant and that we feel that HPL is an important part of our community! Share your stories about how you use the library. If you don’t use the library, check it out I honestly think you’ll find something you love about it!