THE humble public library is no longer a dreary institution with a code of silence.
Libraries across the world are undergoing transformations into vibrant community spaces and Ballarat is no exception.
February 14 marked Library Lovers Day - a day to celebrate the range of library services and resources which benefit the Ballarat community and its social and economic wellbeing.
Coordinator of Community Engagement and Partnerships at Ballarat Libraries, Lesley Morgan, said libraries were evolving community spaces that promoted inclusion.
"[Libraries] are this community hub with so much happening - there might be a technology class in one corner, story time in another corner, people on computers, people having conversations or a local group having a meeting or a homework club. The space is used by so many people of so many different ages," she said.
Ms Morgan said libraries provided interest for everyone and were open for people to use no matter their economic status. She has noticed many people using the library on a daily basis as a meeting place for friends, but that many friendships had also been forged at the library.
The library runs a lot of Q and A classes but find questions about technology are the most prevalent. As such, Ballarat Libraries have a Digital Literacy Coordinator to manage the influx.
Rewind a few years and the future of Australian book retailers looked very bleak as hundreds of book shops - the independents and major players - shut their doors due to a combination of the encroachment of the internet and online retailers, a rise in e-books and a change in social interests.
Reading can relax you and take you away from your everyday life as it is a form of escapism.Lesley Morgan
But as the stores continued to shut up shop, the public lost that connection with books that makes them so special. The ability to go into a book store, hold a book in one's hands and be immersed in the quiet sense of calm.
And secondhand book shops, with their musty smell, and pre-loved titles abounding with the histories of those who owned them in the past, were not immune.
This phenomenon, however, seems to have halted, with many turning back to the classic paper or hardback as opposed to reading from a screen.
Though there has been a significant rise in the popularity of e-books, Ms Morgan said there had never been a reduction in the number of books loaned out from the libraries.
Ballarat Libraries have been hosting 'reading parties' in an effort to continue to foster a love of reading in the community.
The reading parties have been hosted at a number of different locations - at pubs, in parks and at the library itself - in an effort to encourage a love of reading, and of reading widely.
"It’s really that we are all busy and that we don’t all have time to do things that we want to do. The reading party is an hour where it's quiet and you are all enjoying that concept of reading a book," Ms Morgan said.
Reading has enormous benefits for health and wellbeing.
"[Reading] can relax you and take you away from your everyday life as it is a form of escapism," Ms Morgan said.
The library will put on a number of other reading parties this year, hopefully one each season.
The government estimates that 2.2 million Victorians are members of public libraries while approximately 30 million visits were made to libraries in the year of 2017-18.