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In today's world of smartphones and tablets, of on-demand information and bookstores large enough to get lost in, do local libraries still have a place?

If we want to raise independent, creative and freethinking children, they most certainly do.

The modern library offers everything from story time to 3-D printing, from homework clubs to puppet making. But most importantly, it's a place where little minds grow through discovery, creativity and knowledge.

Let's take a look at some of the wonderful ways libraries enrich our children's lives.

Libraries encourage independence

Asking the librarian for help. Searching for his favourite author. Choosing her own books. Placing a hold on a long awaited read. Checking out borrowed items. Signing up for a club.

There are so many ways your child can learn independence inside the walls of a library. And this is a good thing, because taking initiative and learning responsibility are life skills that can never be taught too soon.

While some traditional learning environments can have children moving from one task to the next with little autonomy, libraries leave many decisions up to your child, making each visit an opportunity to build confidence.

What's not to love about that?

Libraries help our kids learn to their strengths

A lifelong love of learning is a gift that keeps on giving. Early learning experiences can have a big impact on whether or not a child is a self-motivated learner or a reluctant one.

Thankfully, libraries and the people who run them are great at helping to ignite that love of learning.

Is your child a visual learner? The librarian can guide him to age-appropriate books that spark imagination.

Is she an auditory learner? There are plenty of audio books and CDs to escape into.

Is he a kinesthetic learner? Most libraries host a variety of workshops, craft days and clubs that allow the hands-on learner to dive right in.

Late Denver, Colorado librarian John Cotton Dana once said, "The purpose of the public library is the pursuit of happiness first, and education second."

In other words, if your child loves what and how they're learning, the sky's the limit.

Libraries teach our kids about respect

Libraries are the great equalizer, shared by the entire community. As such, they are the perfect place to teach children about respecting shared spaces, using manners and taking care of public property.

While most modern libraries thankfully don't insist on the same level of quiet as their predecessors, pointing out areas where people are reading, working or studying can help children learn to use the highly coveted indoor voice at appropriate times. "See that group of big kids over there? They look like they're concentrating right now. Do you think we should whisper when we're nearby?"

When your child borrows from the library, he learns to take care of something so that the next person can enjoy it, too. "Look at how nice this book is. It looks almost new! Let's see if we can keep it that way when it's at our place, ok?"

Seeing the smashy-smashy hands being used to delicately put books back on the night table? Priceless.

Libraries teach our children about the environment

Let's not kid ourselves: we humans use too many resources, and our children are going to have to learn to reuse and recycle more than any other generation in history.

Thankfully, in our highly disposable world, libraries - with their shared spaces and items - are an ecological haven. Borrowing books saves trees, and shared spaces cut down on energy consumption.

By taking your child to the library, you're not only raising an eco-conscious child, but setting a good example of eco-conscious living. Look at you, walking that walk!

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In short, the modern library is more than just a place with books other people read first.

It's a little breather from today's fast-paced, go-go-go society.

It's an ever-evolving center where paper and technology come together seamlessly.

It's a place where neighbours gather and knowledge is shared.

It's where our fellow community members not only learn from one another, but also instill that love of learning in our kids.

So take that little brain to the library, and watch it grow.

Image credit: Barney Moss via Flickr.com