Please. Indulge me for a moment. I’d like to tell you a story.
A couple of years ago I met up with someone who’d been a school friend; someone I hadn’t seen in about thirty years. We spent the next hour and fifteen minutes at the end of the check-out in the M&S food hall having a catch up. Within that conversation she said to me ‘I remember, you always had a book in your hands and I was always the gobby one.’
‘Always having a book’ is probably true of me and it started young. It also started at home in my local library.
An earlier friend – a play mate from nursery days – was the grand-daughter of the Editor of the local newspaper. We both read a lot. We both had our own shelves and we were both big library users. Now, I have to admit to being quietly competitive; I did not like the potential that she could read more than me. So we both devoured from cover to cover, book after book. And this would not have been possible without the wonderful stocks at our local library.
The library was a place of enjoyment for this child, an ongoing source of books and stories. The shelves seemed purpose-built for me as I browsed and picked. It was a place of competition and ambition: moving onto the next age group as soon as possible (even better if the age was not yet achieved) and eventually graduating into the adult section (now we have arrived). Library visits were a way of life, a continuous activity: we went to change our books, not simply to return them. Growing up in a family where education was important, the provision of the library’s facilities was an essential factor in that and in growth.
Libraries also promote a sense of community. Surely this is something that should be promoted for this (to me alien) concept of the ‘big society’? My current local library runs some excellent author events at which I have seen the same faces, as well on my visits to the reference section. And am I the only one to find the proposal that librarians can be made redundant with their roles taken oven by volunteers insulting and ludicrous?
Sadly, I couldn’t make it to my local library yesterday, the day of protest across the country. But the message is clear and it’s not for one day only: use it or lose it. So use your library and then use it more. Encourage others to do the same and introduce newbies.
Libraries are an essential part of education.
Monitor the campaign on twitter by following #savelibraries.