Friday, 16 March 2012

In defence of libraries

I am writing this post from the library. I know, I know,  I have broadband and a laptop at home - but my local library does not have laundry to be done, floors to be hovered and daytime tv to distract me.

It just has lots of lovely books.

The library I am in right now, at 4pm on a Friday afternoon is in Leith, (a relatively colourful part of town,) and it is packed out.

I remember going to the library as a kid. Long Knowle Library was a small red box of a building, near to my primary school in Wolverhampton,  that smelt a lot like bleach. And in that library I remember attending writing workshops in half term, idolising Roald Dahl, and discovering the joy of being allowed to take 5 of these wonderful books home with me.

I had books at home too. A whole bookcase full of them. I so loved the library that I turned my own bookshelf into a library. Each book was coded up with a piece of paper stuck with sellotape onto the spine and could be borrowed by a friend. A Winnie the Pooh book-plate was proudly stuck in the front cover of each: ‘Rachel owns this book.'

I remember Stephen Charles borrowing my beloved ‘Please Mrs Butler’ book of poems. He tippexed on the pages. That was the day my library closed.

The closing of my bookshelf library in 1992 was no disaster. The closing of our communities’ libraries is a very different matter.

Sitting here, on this PC that I am using for free, I look around. What are the other adults doing here? I look at the two men either side of me. They are jobhunting online. 

On the other side of the computer bank are a group of adults working with a library employee. Eavesdropping reveals that this is a CV clinic.

A gentleman from the local council is in the foyer to answer resident's questions at a drop in clinic. 

Kids are coming after school to borrow books. Horrid Henry is a popular choice. 

3 out of 10 children in the UK do not own a single book. There’s no coded library bookshelves in their home. But here, in this small library in Leith, they can come in and borrow books. And books, let us not forget, open the doors to new worlds, people you’d never meet, thoughts you never believed possible. They fuel the imagination.

So Mr. Cameron. Please stop closing our libraries. For the communities that need them the most, libraries offer a place to look for jobs, to seek advice, to be part of community, to access books.

Every library that closes only acts to remind us that the gulf between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow, and that should be worrying us all.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rachel I'm a journalist from the Italian la Repubblica, I'll be coming to Edinburgh end of next week, I read some of your posts, plus a thing on The Guardian and you seem to have the pulse of the town. Can I meet you for a coffee and a chat? My email is
    Bye Mara