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The next time you see a new book on the library shelf, don’t be afraid to check out what’s inside.
“A library is the place where people are most likely to interact with other people,” says library and arts education specialist Mark Bechtel, who helps students and librarians find books that interest and support them in their personal and school-leaving journeys.
“You want them to feel like they’re part of the community,” he continues. “If you’re talking about books in that sense, these are the two most important things — the social experience of the books and the social and emotional experience that the book gives you when you read it.”
Bechtel and the other library professionals he works with share several guiding principles. First, a library should help to enrich a specific topic you’re interested in.
“Books don’t just have a business purpose, they have social functions as well, that’s what I think about,” he says. “To me a book is a good place to start. People can use the book as a tool for finding answers to some specific questions, not just about what’s going on in life.
“I think a lot of people don’t consider that. They think they’re so powerful because of their power to communicate, but the only language you can talk in is people’s language.
“It’s interesting to see how the libraries have used that. There’s a lot of libraries that have used social media, especially social media in the public sphere — so it’s like the library has this platform to interact with their community and their audience.”
Second, library patrons can learn valuable skills through interaction, Bechtel adds.
“The more interesting thing about my job as library educator, it’s the interaction with users,” he says. “For example, if people don’t see an opportunity to get a good book, I think it’s important to remind them what kinds of things are available online.”
“In this area, the library as an informational centre is really important. You want people to feel like there’s information here, but you’re putting it in a context that gives you hope
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