My local “Friends of the Library” group has just raised enough money for an external Library Notice Board, and today the board was fixed to the Library railings.
I feel rather proud. The board will display information about what’s on inside the Library building. Pedestrians outside, seeing the notices, might be encouraged to come inside and make use of the town’s Library itself.
So today I’m happy and positive and, although not everything is perfect, I live where there is a Very Nice Library.
Yet my heart sinks. Right now there are rumblings of more cuts on the way. Nothing to do with the Big Government, of course – ha ha! - as these will just be local cuts for local people.
Which means it’s “not my responsibility” says Somebody Important Minister, no doubt smiling.” Hey, look at my clean hands! Besides, I have people who do all my reading for me. I’m just too busy for books to matter in my life . . . Or I can buy what I need anyway . . .”
Honestly, I feel very lucky because when I go into “my” library, because I witness:
easy chairs so people can reading papers and magazines and books (or snooze);
rows of computers with almost every machine in use;
plenty of fiction, both general and genres;
information books on a wide range of subjects, including topics I am not interested in yet;
a large local history section
books in foreign languages and books for second language learners;
large print and audiobooks for the visually impaired;
films on DVD and, still, a few music CDs;
spaces with tables where people can study or write;
a children’s library, with a wide selection of books;
space for storytimes with a weekly programme of events;
a tea and coffee area;
Who uses it?
Older people. Retired people. People probably out of work or on low income. People with disabilities. Mothers. Children. Fathers. Carers. Children’s health clinics. Parents. Students of all ages. Solitary teens. Lone readers of all ages. People who like the conversation group. People learning English as a second language. Reading groups. Computer groups. Local history groups. A WI group. A handicraft group . . . And all of them involved with reading in some way.
It is a busy library!
How does it feel?
Busy. Warm, Friendly. A place for browsing. For meeting. Free to all, without means testing, and funded by taxpayers money. Possibly the last space in this tourist town where you can sit, rest, work or read without paying. In many ways, this local Library is the last indoor democratic area.
Who runs it? The whole place is run by a core of trained librarians, supported by groups of volunteers. (Oh dear. Another anxiety, with these cuts coming on! In my opinion, volunteers can’t hold a library service together on their own, not for long. I worry that as genuine library expertise seeps away, libraries will just become large rooms filled with books on shelves. Then e-rooms. Then non-existent and the space for the community lost. . . )
Now I don’t want to offend people, but I do get angry – very angry – when newspaper and other articles suggest that a nicely-decorated ex-phone-box crammed with book shelves is “a Library”. It isn’t, not for me. It’s a nice, enjoyable community project and I’m very glad that such things exist and am happy for the people who care for it and make use of it and the places where they are found.
However, as council library services are being decimated, I resent the way that local media and local bigwigs promote such “pretty new library” stories, implying that these libraries will make up for all the lost Public Libraries. A library is more than a collection of books, isn't it?
I feel blessed because this post is about my local library, right now. Happy face.
I also know that - right now! - libraries in Liverpool and elsewhere are being hacked about, weakened, cut and closed, their school library services shut down and, I suspect, companies approached to take over “ailing services”. For non-profit? Ha! Angry face!
Yes, people. It’s cultural vandalism gone mad! Grrr!
Put that on any new Notice Board as a warning for passing people to see!