Anyway – libraries. I used to work in a library.(Whenever I say this, people always say ‘It must be nice to read books all day’. If only – we weren’t allowed to read the books at work – even if we stuck on a desk in an empty room with nothing to do – we were just supposed to stare ahead into space until called for. Books were like cornflake boxes – store, shelve, hand out, but never tamper with the seal)We, as the front line staff, were called into a meeting about the future of libraries, and asked what we thought our customers wanted. More computers, a Translation Unit, coffee shop, what? I put my hand and said ‘Well, what the customers are always saying they want are – more new books.’ The manager sniffed in a contemptuous manner, gave me a disappointed look, and said ‘Well, yes, apart from that’
Libraries are dying. Liverpool, last years City of Culture, is closing many of it’s smaller libraries. Many of the books I want to read – not obscure titles – can’t be found in my local library – and that’s a big main library. Perhaps the only way to save them is to move the focus from books – to becoming a social hub, to providing internet, and services and coffee. After all, books are so cheap now, you can pick them up for a penny on Amazon. And authors only get around 12pence for every book borrowed.
And yet…We still need a place for books. Where a child can sit down and reach onto a shelf, and pull out The Wind in the Willows, or the Sword in the Stone. Where a person can browse, wandering amongst shelves and shelves of books, searching for that one that catches their eye, that special book. Where the classics all sit there, waiting to be discovered, side by side with those modern blockbuster novels everyone is talking about, and the quiet little books that will never be a massive movie, but can still change your life. The internet is a wonderful research tool, but it gives you only drips and drabs of information – to get the full story, you need a book – a huge £25 book you can never afford, a strange obscure little book you’ve never heard of, sitting in your library waiting to be found.
As Detective Robert Goren once said ‘I’m going to use the best research tool I have – my library ticket’
Or to quote Malcolm Forbes ‘The richest person in the world – in fact all the riches in the world – couldn’t provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library
We still need a place that opens up the entire world of books to everyone -FOR FREE. Your local library is not just a place for internet use and tramps to sleep. It’s a treasure-house, and should be treasured. So I urge you – don’t let them die out. Protest every closure. Speak out in support. Instead of buying a book,and selling it on when you’re done, go to the library.
Remember that thrill when you first got your library card, you walked into that room full of books, and you said to yourself, in wonder ‘I can read ANY of them – ALL of them? – and I don’t have to pay?’ That thrill is still there.
Save your library. Use it.