Urgent Notices View
Niagara Falls Public Library

Niagara Falls Public Library is a place to be

A public library is more than a building filled with books.

Yes, a library is a building. And we have lots of books, along with other borrowable stuff, from snowshoes to video games to musical instruments. And all of our things are indisputably wonderful.

But to look at a public library and see this and this alone — a warehouse stocked with miscellaneous objects — is to overlook an important social function public libraries serve.

If you haven’t been in a while, you may not be aware that a public library is a place to be. It is somewhere you can share space with other people, for a few minutes or for several hours. It is somewhere you can have an impromptu conversation with a stranger. It is somewhere you are likely to encounter people who are like you along with those who are not. It is a point of connection with your community.

I am far from the first to observe that a public library is a third place. A lot of people spend a lot of time either at home, whatever home looks like, or work, whatever work looks like. Part of the beauty of a public library is that it is neither, instead being what sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls “a third place,” outside of both the domestic and productive spheres of everyday life. Third places tend to improve quality of life and make for healthier communities. Libraries join cafés, coffee shops, clubs, community centres, and public parks in offering people a spot to unwind and connect with neighbours on equal terms.

Space is crucial to this equation. As excellent as our many digital collections are, and as convenient as it is to skip the trip to the library and download an ebook or magazine from wherever you happen to be, having the library offer a quality of life-enhancing third space experience requires a library to have physical space.

In 2023, we had 250,730 visits to our four locations, with 138,518 of these being visits to the Victoria Avenue Library alone. Some came for the stuff. Some came for the many educational and cultural activities. Some came for the meeting rooms and performance spaces. Some stayed for a few minutes. Some stayed for several hours.

Whatever the reason for and length of each visit, these numbers tell the story of a community embracing its public library as a third place, and of a public library working hard to be more than a building filled with books: to be somewhere you can make a connection, whatever it may look like, with the people who are all around you.