I wasn’t going to write about libraries as I know Steve Topple is planning an article – seriously read it when it’s published, it will be informative (and hopefully pro-library) – however a snarky tweet last night got me raging.
If we don’t stand up for these essential services and those who work in them who will? About a quarter of library staff have been axed in the last 6 years. They may not be as essential as schools & hospitals, but libraries are not far behind if we wish to class ourselves as a civilised country. They are free for all to access, democratising knowledge. Andrew Carnegie said
There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.
You can if you choose access works by the great writers and thinkers or open your mind to great works of fiction. Stepping through a library door gives you access to different times, different lands, different universes. Yes, as I was snidely told, you can hire crappy DVDs and unauthorised biographies of 3rd rate celebrities. I don’t care what gets you through that door, once you are there you have access to the rest.
Having that opportunity is what is important. Personally I don’t care what people read; it was her love of dinosaurs that got my daughter interested in reading for herself – seriously A is for Archaeopteryx.
Reading is important, both the Book Trust & Scottish Book Trust support reading from an early stage, and have research showing how taking time reading to your children and then encouraging them to read can improve both verbal language skills and then lead to improved attainment levels at school. Though for me, the greatest benefit is the peace and quiet when she has her nose in a book mainly because it allows me to read too.
I’ve never felt the need to spout my working class credentials but it’s what I am, and libraries have always been an important part of my life. Fighting for libraries is not some form of middle-class angst, it’s wanting others to have the opportunities I had. Every Saturday morning off to my local library – which didn’t have a huge selection, but did have some gems – to pick up my 6 books for the week. It was a haven, the old building, tiny reading room, friendly staff & the paper tickets. I loved it.
Now, my daughter has a similar experience, though with a much larger library and selection. Our local library, Langside was the last Carnegie to be built in Glasgow – 1915 – but the first to be designed on open access, enabling readers to choose their books rather than having to apply at the desk to a librarian. Again I will quote him;
A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.
She knows she can order any book in Glasgow, and she makes the most of it. Again 6 books most weeks, and over the summer holidays she can read possibly a hundred. How could I possibly match that appetite without a library? The main reason I still go to the library with her is because she can’t always manage to carry her books home.
Libraries are important, they are essential for the working class. The attack on them by this government is insidious, they would much rather we sit and be pacified by TV, beer & football. There is no culture without libraries. You may not get to visit the museums and galleries of the world, but thanks to the books and free internet access you can still see them.
I’m not even going to go over the complete stupidity of reducing the availability of internet access from the continually demeaned unemployed and working poor who need it as the benefit system becomes more of an online labyrinth.
It is also vital to recognise the importance of qualified librarians. As much as volunteers can help support as system they cannot cover for trained staff. It is happening in Lincolnshire right now, the gradual erosion of services giving the local authority the excuse to slash services to the rural populations.
Libraries have changed to fit with the modern world, and this country would become a lesser place if we lost them. I will end with a link to 10 things you need to know about library closures.