Times are tough and politicians are tough talking which means that things we hold dear are under threat. Not everything can be paid for by the taxpayer but Libraries should be up there, protected from indiscriminate cuts. At the moment my local library, West Kilbride, is under threat and has a few months left before its fate is debated and possibly sealed.
This is a newish building built in the mid-nineties and has a fabulous view of the village. The atmosphere is welcoming and the books are laid out invitingly. My daughter loves visiting the place and is often found in a tiny tent, reading away happily – surrounded by picture books. Meanwhile, other older children are drawing and sketching, locating books for projects and homework, or quietly exploring the computers. There is quietness, of course, but a sense of purpose and relaxation – and entertainment.
The services our library gives is growing; there are DVDs, portals into government sites, spaces for writing groups, for book groups such as Book Bug … and it is a key part of the community.
All this has a cost – and local authorities don’t like shelling out for something that is so ‘normal’ and taken for granted. So, for many libraries, their opening times are more difficult to remember as hours are cut, more staff are part-timers, and most books are more mainstream, replaced less often and getting dated. There is a secondary threat from e-books and no one has sorted out in the UK how e-books can be incorporated into a library lending scheme.
I love our library – I love what it offers and the messages it sends out to children that books are there to be valued, that written words have a place in our society and there is a welcoming place to find them.
During our campaign to save our library – type (Save West Kilbride Library) into Facebook – I have received comments that other services are more important and reading is best done by parents at home. Sadly these reactions miss the point. Not everyone can afford a regular supply of books, not everyone has a safe place in which to read – and not all children have supportive book reading adults around.
I grew up in children’s homes and books were on the walls. I read them but most were faded, jaded or biodegraded! Only when I was older did I get to the library – going by myself – and I discovered a wonderful world of hope, colour and laughter. Characters became my lifelong friends, I read about far off places which I vowed to visit, and I was taken out of my grey, troubled existence. My library in Deal did that. Libraries still do that.
I wonder how many politicians use libraries? How many bankers? I see with my own eyes lots of children who do actually enjoy them, who love sharing in books, who gain a respect for stories and a better understanding of how to communicate their own. The educational value should never be underestimated.
Unfortunately, when a library is lost it’s lost – it’s passed on! This Library is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! It’s a stiff! Bereft of life … shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ bookshelves invisible!
Use it or lose it? I’ll see you there …