I remember being a small child and being taken to our local library by my parents; it was not an experience that I enjoyed. Don't get me wrong, I loved books and would stare in wonderment at the huge choice of books displayed on the racks. The thought of being able to choose some books to borrow filled me with excitement as I spent forever selecting just the right books that would take me on adventures; taking me to fantasy worlds where I could meet fairies and princesses.
There was a downside though, the library was an old Victorian, imposing building and inside had wooden panels on every wall, uncomfortable chairs. I remember the librarian who frowned upon any kind of noise, often putting her fingers to her lips, telling me to be quiet if I had forgotten the "Silence Rule!"
Visiting the library
Thankfully today, the local libraries have been brought up to date with the 21st century. Our local library is modern, open plan, welcoming, and family friendly. It is more of a meeting place, with designated sections including a toddler area, coffee area, computer suite, comfortable sofas to relax on, a quiet area for studying, homework etc. Technological changes have taken place in the form of borrowing and returning books, which is done at a self check out/in point. Of course, there is still help at hand with the information point which is manned by a few helpful staff.
Libraries are not just for borrowing books, they serve many other functions and have a community spirit about them. Apart from the various book clubs run for children and adults, there are regular workshops on almost every possible subject from crafts to first aid. Writing classes are held each month, talks by authors take place occasionally and computer classes for each stage of learning. Our local library is the hub of the community and popular with every age group, from 0-90years old.
Writers are readers,enhancing much of their knowledge through research and often finding out about the business of writing through reading books.
Altogether in the UK there are just under 5,000 libraries. Cash strapped councils up and down the country say that a lack of funding has put the future of the local library under threat. According to C.I.L.I.P. (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), over 400 libraries have had to close their doors and a further 500-600 more are under real threat as funding is stretched to capacity. It's not just in the U.K. that this is happening, the threat is more global as most countries are suffering financially in these times.
It's a tragedy really as I think that the local library is an essential part of any community. I cannot envisage my local town without the services of the library. Much of the decline has to do with the computer, as most people google answers for research rather than making the trip to the library. The advent of the Kindle must surely have an adverse effect on book borrowing, with technology, a full book can be downloaded to these devices within seconds.
As a parents, readers, writers and part of local communities, it is up to us to try and help our libraries survive these difficult times. There are a number of things that we can do to help:
- encourage family/friends/children to join the library.
- set time aside to read a physical book that you can borrow.
- attend library events.
- if your local library is under threat of closure, write to your local council or MP and speak up in their defense.
- look out for upcoming events in the library and show your support by attending some of these.
It would be sad to think that libraries could become a relic of the past, and that future generations may never get to know the wonder of books. Libraries need us to survive, and I will be making a conscious effort to use them more in order that they remain an essential part of the community.