It's a crime! (Or a mystery…)


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.


6 comments on “#savelibraries

  1. Whyjay99
    February 6, 2011

    I was a very similar bookish child and, not only did I go to the library very often, I even worked in one during a gap year and in university vacations. Yet, unlike most of my friends on Twitter yesterday, I cannot get too worked up about this issue. When resources are scarce something has to give and, to be honest, I would rather it were libraries than, say, social services. The coalition government has skilfully dumped the problem of allocating scarce resources onto local councils. I do not envy those who run these councils their task. Indeed I think this alone justifies some of them being paid more than the Prime Minister who has, in effect, passed the buck.
    I do not see libraries being used these days by younger people in the way we used them. They are a nice to have and I would hate not to have a local library but I would be more concerned if elderly impoverished people struggling on their own in cold homes were left totally uncared for.

  2. GMBanks
    February 6, 2011

    I don’t live in the UK, and I haven’t used a library in years – but I still think they are an important social resource. I can see the point that Whyjay99 makes – and in some ways I agree. Yes, health services are more important than books but there is more to SOCIAL services than just health. Perhaps if more of our young people were encouraged to visit libraries and to read, then in years to come we wouldn’t have the same financial & social mess which we have today. It’s as bad (if not worse) in my country (Ireland) as in the UK – tho’ there is no indication here that libraries are under threat. I’d like to think that our young people can be made to understand the importance of books (over PC & XBox games anyway!)and that this education will result in better times in the future for all of us. Perhaps it’s a forlorn hope – but there’s no harm in trying (or wishing).

  3. Dorte H
    February 6, 2011

    Hear, hear!
    I practically lived in the public library (and the school library) when I was a child, and without access to all these thousands of free books, I don´t know if I would ever have set my foot in a university – with my working class background and parents who went to school for seven years.

  4. MarDixon
    February 6, 2011

    Excellent post. Although the push was in the UK, there were many throughout the world (Australia, Sweden, America, Canada, etc) that also took part as they too are worried about their libraries.
    If you do follow the #savelibraries thread, try to look at the tweets from January 16th and 17th. This was right after I asked the question ‘Libraries are important because’ and that’s where people tweeted answers like this (but shorter ;0) on why libraries are important.
    They’re vital to every community.

  5. stujallen
    February 7, 2011

    it has been a wonderful campaign to raise awareness in how important libraries are to so many people ,all the best stu

  6. tcno
    February 8, 2011

    I imagine the “Big Society” idea is that we should all support “elderly impoverished people” rather than expect paid social workers to do everything on our behalf. But libraries are a way of sharing the cost of access to information and ideas. You cannot pretend all information comes free; some is really expensive. And if some libraries are not being used to the full by young people, we must invest in better school libraries with proper librarians who will both enthuse youngsters and teach them to use information sources with discrimination.

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2011 by in Debate, SaveLibraries2011.