Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Value of Libraries...

Libraries are under threat.

Today there have been a large number of events and protests taking place in libraries all over the UK.
There will be mass borrowings as readers check-out the maximum number of books they are allowed, in others authors will be performing readings and for many more it will just be vocally protesting outside with banners.

Shutting libraries or reducing their hours is not new. It has been going on for a year or two.

A nearby village spent last year trying to save their small community library- it already had limited opening hours- and looked into the possibility of buying and running it themselves. The plan to close it had been discussed and agreed at least two years before but no one told the residents, so their campaign was hampered from the start.

Sadly their attempts were unsuccessful and it closed last summer to be replaced with access to a mobile library each fortnight during the daytime- not much use for children at school, or adults at work...

I doubt there are many writers today who haven't benefited from free access to library books. Many of us would have spent hours during our childhood raiding the shelves and devouring the words from all the books available to us.

I remember looking forward to my weekly trek into town- a half hour walk-to change my library books. When I had eventually exhausted the children's section (in the early 1970's) and I wanted to move onto the numerous shelves in the adult fiction section (I was about fourteen at the time) my mother had to come with me to the library to give permission to the librarian to let me borrow any of those books.
If they felt something was unacceptable for my age then they wouldn't let me have it- but that never happened.

Fortunately today we have cross-over fiction so both adults and teenagers can enjoy it. But budgets don't stretch to all the new books readers might want now.

Well over ten years ago the Central library in Nottingham gathered together any old stock they could sell. Yearbooks that were out of date. Books that hadn't been borrowed for years; books that had been written in or underlined, or were a little too tatty to stay on the shelves.

It was wonderful. I bought some books that have been useful for reference, or the subject just interested me and they are dotted among my book shelves.

books shelves,library,novels,reference A few of my books

The money that was made was put into the budget for buying new books so everyone gained.

Sadly with local authorities making cuts because they have to rely on less money, libraries have suffered.

Do councils see libraries as soft targets? Just because the number of books borrowed is down that doesn't mean that people don't use them.

You are still using the services even if you don't check-out a book. Plus many of the libraries have limited book buying budgets so they will never please every reader and potential borrower.

I hope local authorities listen to the people and find a compromise...


CekaTB said...

I love libraries too - shout about it!

Carolb said...

I was pleased to see tv news items on today's protests. I'm sure that more will be mentioned on local news programmes on Monday.

Teresa Ashby said...

Great post, Carol.
I just can't imagine life without our libraries.

Carolb said...

Agree with you Teresa, libraries are a part of us all.

Anonymous said...

It is often the most vulnerable in society who make most use of our libraries - the old and the very young.
I don't know what the answer to funding problems is but tearing out the heart of the community (many different groups hold their meetings in libraries) is not the way to go.

Emma B said...

Thanks Carol and hear hear!! They are such an intrinsic part of our society and like sally jenkins' says it is tearing the heart out of the community.