What I Love About Local Libraries, Our Home Away From Home

Saturday mornings in our household are on average no different than our frantic weekday mornings. No one sleeps in on Saturdays in this house — that luxury went away the moment our firstborn arrived and hasn’t happened since. But my three kids and I do have a Saturday morning ritual that we have been participating in for quite some time, and it does provide me with a sense of calm and satisfaction (just like I imagine hitting the snooze button would): visiting our local library.

Our local library is our home away from home. The fact that it’s within walking distance is an added bonus, as we are a one-vehicle household. You can often see me trudging the double stroller or our trusty red wagon piled high with library books on any given Saturday morning. Once upon a time I instilled a rule that limited each child to three library books, as we were forever hunting them down under the kids’ beds, our couch and anywhere else one could hide a library book.

But that rule only lasted a week. The anguish on my kids’ faces when they had to decide between Robert Munsch’s “Mortimer” or Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus” was enough for me to slightly bend the rule and change it to “however many books you can fit in your library tote” (and trust, it’s me a lot!).

Sometimes our library missions are short, sweet and to the point. We obtain library books for the week ahead. But other days our library visits extend well into the afternoon. Our local librarian knows my children well, as all three have participated in the library’s free toddler and family programs, which sees a group of parents and caregivers along with their children get together to sing songs and read stories.

On Fridays during the school holidays, my eldest son and his cousin are often front row centre watching a great kids’ movie that the library presents on the big screen. During the summer months, we were able to participate in several educational programs that brought science to life. We are fortunate that if my kids miss these opportunities at the local library, chances are they will witness similar things when they go to summer camp, the zoo or the museum. But this isn’t the case for all children.

As a teacher, the library holds a special place in my heart. A school or public library can be an essential and necessary escape for so many students. Oftentimes a library is the one place students retreat to if they have problems socializing with their peers. Public libraries offer essential services for many students whose households cannot financially afford a home computer, printer or internet access.

The library can be a wealth of knowledge for not only students, but the elderly. Our local library offers free workshops on various topics from gardening, to filing your taxes, to vegetarian cooking.It is also an accessible and diverse community hub where newcomers to Canada can learn English, or one can listen to story time in Polish, Ojibwe or Italian depending on the library branch.

In 2016, the Toronto Public Library’s annual report found that the library had its busiest year in the past 10 years. With all these amazing services the library provides, and the increase in the public’s use of it, it’s somewhat alarming that threats to close public libraries always seem to be lingering in the background. Threats to close libraries across Newfoundland and Labrador by the Liberal Government in 2016 came to a halt after huge protests across the province and country. No doubt the issue will resurface and, unfortunately, it seems that it’s only in due time when public libraries will be next on the chopping block for funding.

Until that dreaded day happens, my three kids and I will continue to seek refuge in our local library on rainy days, Saturday mornings and during school vacations. There, my kids learn a sense of responsibility (we no longer hide library books), an appreciation for the written word (my six-year-old son is an avid reader), and the opportunity to explore new skills (even if it is to make slime). I will cherish our weekly ritual for as long as they let me participate or until they begin sleeping in — whichever happens first.

Have you been affected personally by this or another issue? Share your story on HuffPost Canada blogs. We feature the best of Canadian opinion and perspectives. Find out how to contribute here.