Did we forget about libraries? Why you should be taking advantage + where to find public libraries in Birmingham

Birmingham public library. Photo by Beth Cunningham for Bham Now.

Some of my favorite summertime memories as a child involved going to the library. During those long, hot summer days (before Netflix came around), my older sister and I would run out of entertainment fairly quickly. So, once a week, we would grab our library cards, hop in my mom’s car, and ride down to our local public library. The excitement of scanning the shelves, finding a new novel or maybe the next book in a series I’d been burning through- nothing could compare. I feel confident that I am not alone in that memory. Which begs the question, Birmingham- why have so many of us forgotten about libraries?

The Beginning

Recently, a trend popped up on Twitter. Michelle Cyca, a self-proclaimed library patron from Vancouver, Canada, noticed that the wonderful people of the internet were calling for some sort of book rental service (a term one might, in fact, use to describe libraries).

Via @jenspeak on Twitter
Message thread captured by @michellecyca via Twitter

Michelle gathered some evidence and started asking the hard-hitting questions:

“Why don’t people know about libraries?”

Via @michellecyca on Twitter

The Response

People came out of the proverbial Twitter woodwork with all kinds of responses to this. Some claimed that the desire to pay a subscription fee for a service already provided by our tax dollars is a “uniquely American compulsion.” Some poked fun with imaginary conversations like these two gentlemen:

Via @benpobjie on Twitter
Via @brianborowsky on Twitter

While these responses certainly made me laugh, the whole topic had me reflecting. The child who used to love going to the library hadn’t stepped foot in one in years (other than the one located on my college campus, in which I spent many an all-nighter staring at notes on my computer screen and definitely not reading for enjoyment).

Library in the Forest lives up to its name with massive glass windows, a nature observation deck, and a rooftop garden. Fun fact: more that 80% of the trees that were cleared from the land during construction were reincorporated into the library. Photo by Beth Cunningham for Bham Now.

I decided to change that. My first stop was Library in the Forest in Vestavia– it’s stunning. Next, I perused around the Central Branch of the Birmingham Public Library downtown- they had four stories of resources, and four more floors of material in the attached Linn Henley Research Center. I was not disappointed.

4 Reasons You Should Check Out Your Local Library

Libraries are constantly receiving new shipments and material- which means you don’t have to wait around for the book all your friends are talking about. Photo by Beth Cunningham for Bham Now.

1. Free Books

Ok, I get this one may seem obvious, but hear me out. What’s free these days? Very few things, that’s what. According to research done by the School Library Journal, the average cost of a hardcover fiction book in 2018 was $26.80. For all my numbers people out there: if you read one book every two weeks from your local library, you’re getting about $700 a year worth of knowledge and entertainment FOR FREE!

2. Digital Resources

What many people miss out on is the abundance of online and digital resources available through public libraries. You can access movies, music, standardized test prep, audiobooks, ebooks, comics, and TV shows to enjoy on any digital device! Personally, I’m a big fan of downloading free audiobooks on Hoopla to listen to on my commute to work.

Birmingham libraries boast some beautiful reading nooks and study spaces all over the area- like this one in Vestavia Hills. Photo by Beth Cunningham for Bham Now.

3. Activities for Kids and Teens

If you’re a parent and not taking advantage of your local library, you are missing out on some great, free entertainment for your kiddo. Not just books, but classes, activities, clubs, and more.

4. Classes and Resources

In addition to opportunities for kids and teens, our public libraries have many offerings for adults. Classes on basic software, coding, and other topics young adults need to know, like (I’ll keep saying it- free!) tax prep assistance and forms.

Where to Find these Magical Places

BPL Central Branch on Park Place. Photo by Beth Cunningham for Bham Now.

Hopefully, by now, you’re sold. You’re going to leave school or work today, or wherever you’re reading this, and head straight to get your library card. Check out these lists below and find the location closest to you!

Tell someone about libraries today, and happy reading, Birmingham!