Child reading a book in the library. Image: Nazar Abbas Photography/Getty

Image: Nazar Abbas Photography/Getty

There's something magical about a library. Housed in its (usually) humble walls are the keys to thousands of destinations, and those keys are available to anyone for free.

During coronavirus many library buildings have been shut, but they've still been loaning out ebooks and audiobooks online, providing people with access to books at a time many of us have been craving stories that help us escape.

But public libraries have been under threat for years, with funding cuts leading to a reduction in opening hours at best, and a complete closure at worst. Now, with coronavirus having affected the arts and culture sector deeply, it's more important than ever to support those libraries we do have, which, as well as helping to create book lovers, also often provide things like wifi and computer access and help with accessing local services, and act as a community hub.

Here are five simple ways you can support your local library. 

Become a member

This may sound deceptively simple, but the first step to supporting libraries is by becoming a member of your nearest one. Many libraries will be able to sign you up if you go in person (although that may not be possible right now) or online via their website. Often library membership is for a council area, so you can use any library, not just the one closest to your home.

Borrow, borrow, borrow

Once you're a member, make sure you borrow books from the library. Although most libraries are still closed, borrowing can take place online; ebooks and audiobooks can  be borrowed via your phone or other devices, and there's usually no charge involved. In addition to supporting libraries, the borrowing of books also supports authors, as they get a small amount of money every time their book is loaned out. 

Woman looking through books in the library. Image: Peter Cade/Getty

Support your local library by borrowing books or using it as a study space. Image: Peter Cade/Getty

Donate books

If you have lots of books that you're looking to divest yourself of, then check if you library will take donations. Many will accept books that are in good condition, and if they can't keep them all they will know places will be grateful for the donations.

Write to your MP

Libraries are usually council-owned and run, but any cuts to funding by national government often hit libraries hard. Make sure your MP knows how important your library service is by writing to them and telling them how and when you use it, and how much you value having a local library.

Use the space

Once your library reopens and it's safe for you to do so, make sure to visit the library. Take a look at any community groups that use in the space, and join if they match your interests. Many libraries host events for children, including story time sessions and music groups, and will also be the meeting spot for organisations like local walking and craft groups.

You can also use the library as a place to study or work for a few hours; many libraries are set up with desks and chairs, and it's a welcome change especially if you’re working from home a lot. 

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