‘Tales’ has just toddled back from the library to pay assorted fines for overdue books. Memory being an increasingly challenged faculty, this is a regular thing. The library was deserted, only four people, myself included. The librarians begged each of us to take out as many books as possible, ‘even if you won’t read them’. The library is earmarked for closure, and they are doing all they can to prove their worth.
This issue came to my attention the other day when the village newsletter arrived. It contained a warning from the library that it would have to close if more people didn’t start using it. Later that day, I chanced upon Nicola Morgan’s blog ‘Help I Need a Publisher’. She points out the current ‘Oxfam’ catalogue is offering the opportunity to buy a library for villages in developing countries. Doesn’t this amplify the ludicrousness of plans to shut libraries over here?
The librarians in my local library say it’s normal for it to be so quiet. “Either people aren’t reading as much,” one said. “Or they just buy cheap books from Amazon or the supermarket.”
I’m guilty as charged on the second count. And for this reason, I found myself pondering if we really need libraries when one can purchase any book online, second-hand often selling for pennies? Whenever I’ve ordered books from the library, they’ve either not been available, or never turned up. A few clicks online, and whatever you want to read turns up within a few days. It’s so simple.
But I like the library, and I don’t want to see it close. Apart from everything our local library does, from hosting learning courses to running a toddler music group, libraries are a fantastic source of inspiration. Yes, so there’s the environmental aspect, the same book being lent out time and time again, rather than more and more being printed, the financial side for those who don’t want to keep paying out for books, and the whole murky world of encouraging children to read (I say ‘murky’ because ‘Tales’ has a lot of problems in this area, and we’ll say no more).
The brilliant thing about libraries, rather than online bookstores, is wandering around and having things catch your eye which you might otherwise have not considered.
This afternoon I found ‘Angel Time’ by Anne Rice, whom I haven’t read since ploughing through her vampire chronicles once upon a very long time ago. I also have ‘Season of the witch’ by Natasha Mostert, (there isn’t meant to be a theme developing here!) which promises a gothic tale, perfect for dark nights in front of the fire. And if it wasn’t for the library, I would never have discovered Stephen Deas’s dragon yarns, pretty good reading if you fancy a bit of escapist fantasy once in a while.
So I’m going to make an effort to visit my library more often, and not just to pay fines. Come on good people of the world, we need our libraries. Go and have a mosey round today! And Nicola Morgan has an open letter protesting against the proposed closures which I’m off to sign…