Libraries Everywhere!

June 5, 2012 at 8:45 am 3 comments

This week we jumped right into vocational days. On Monday and Tuesday I had a chance to visit several different types of libraries around the town of Willich. The first library I visited on Monday was the KÖB Anrath. KÖB Libraries are small neighborhood libraries run by the Catholic Church. When we think of libraries run by churches in the USA we assume they contain materials supporting the church’s doctrine or mission. But this is not the case in Germany. While the Catholic Church provides the space and some funding for the library, the collection is similar to what you would find in any small neighborhood branch library–the religion section is a small part of the collection rather than the main focus. In fact, it reminded me of the Lake Stevens or Brier Libraries. Often these KÖB libraries are the only one in the neighborhood so they are the main point of access for books and information in these smaller communities. I enjoyed my visit in Anrath very much! Before I arrived, they arranged for me to give a storytime in English to a group of children ages 6-10. Because I don’t work with this age in the USA, this was my first storytime ever and I think it went pretty well. The Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems were very popular as was Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas.

On Tuesday, I visited a bigger city library in the town of Viersen. This was a really wonderful experience. They have a beautiful building, but my favorite part was on the Teen Area on the second floor. This is one of the first libraries I’ve visited in Germany that had an special section of the library set aside just for Teens. I was impressed by the collection–and recognized several titles that are popular with teens in my area. Possibly the most valuable part of the day was a visit to a local Gymnasium (High School) to talk to older students about how they use the library and what they like to read. Twilight and the House of Night books were mentioned several times. I was surprised that although many students had seen the movie of the Hunger Games, very few had read the book. The class had recently finished reading Brave New World, and we had a very interesting discussion about importance of schools assigning a mixture of classics and more recent titles. I think libraries all over the world face similar problems trying to market their services to teens. Some students commented that they might go to the library if it offered newer titles, but didn’t seem to realize they had access to such an amazing collection of Teen titles just a short walk away.

I think one of the biggest surprises for me (besides the fact that many libraries charge an annual fee for the library card) is that most of the libraries I have visited have few internet computers for the public to use. In one library, they even had to charge 1 Euro for 30 minutes of internet time! The city library in Muenster was the only one which offered WiFi access. Providing free access to the internet is a huge part of libraries in the USA because there is a portion of the population who does not have internet access at home either because they can’t afford it or it isn’t available in their rural area. Access to the internet is necessary for so many things today–applying for a job, banking, or simply sending an email–and for some people, public libraries are their only source for the internet. When I ask about this in Germany, I’m told that everyone has a computer or a smart phone at home, so they don’t need it in the library. However, I can’t help but think that there must be some people out there who can’t afford a computer or a smart phone and who don’t have the internet at home and I wonder where they go.

Finally, I have read about “Free Libraries” before, but in Germany I’m seeing them all over in bus stations and town squares. These Free Libraries are essentially public bookcases where people can take a book and then bring it back when they are finished. Or they can donated titles they are finished with for other people to read. What fantastic way to keep yourself entertained while waiting for a bus!

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Entry filed under: Team Blog.

RWE…… “The Energy to Lead” Willich Welcome

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stefan  |  June 5, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Hi Laura,
    Did you get my Facebook-message? We’re really excited to be hosting you next week and I have a couple of logistical questions I’d like to ask you before you arrive…
    If you have a number where I can reach you I’d be happy to give you a call to make it quick and easy 🙂
    Johanna and I really look forward to meeting you!
    Regards
    Stefan

    Reply
  • 2. Kathy S  |  June 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Congratulations on your first storytime!

    Reply
  • 3. billrobson1  |  June 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Looks like you had lots of fun. The “free libraries” is such an innovative idea. I wonder if it could actually work in N. America.

    Reply

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