I wanted to talk a bit about an article published by the BBC last week; ‘Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close.’ I now go to the university library, as we get given a reading list we need to complete as part of our course. Yesterday, I was stood there, scanning through the endless shelf of books, trying to find the one that I needed. When I was stood there, I thought about how long it had been since I’d been in a library, and how much I had missed it.
A library is a place where anyone in the community can become more educated on any subject they like; science, maths, art, cooking, gardening or even the BFG or The Twits, if that’s what takes your fancy. These buildings stand proudly in the centre of a town. In the town I live, it is one of very few community resources, and has been one of the only things that has stayed the same since I was little (apart from the doctors and fish and chip shop!)
But what does it bring to the community? Firstly, jobs. In my area, where most people have to travel to work, it means local people are able to work in the local area, without the costly commute. It could also provide jobs in the sense of those looking for work. My local library has a computer area, in which they hold weekly sessions to work on an individual’s CV. Users can also connect to the internet to try and find job vacancies, a resource they may not have had without the library.
A library can also mean different things for different people. My Grandma recently told me that she gets a different book from the library each week to use as her night time reading. My dad used to take me to the library when I was little, whilst he researched our family tree, searching through years of census(es/i?) All to add little bits to a jigsaw puzzle of a family tree, information, without the library, we wouldn’t have been able to find out. They provide a place where people can meet up, socialise and share interests either a book/writing club or something completely unrelated, like crochet, but they use they library as their physical meeting place.
But, what does the library mean for me? If I look through my old memory box, I will find about three medals that I got for completing the summer holiday reading challenge as child. I even have picture from a local newspaper cutting of me and my friends standing rather proudly with our medals in the library. I would be excited each year to see what the theme would be, and would wander down to the local library with my mum, get my stamp and collect my next book on the trail. I would then sit on the kitchen step, and catch the last of the sunshine on the long summer nights, whilst happily reading my newest book.
When I was older, albeit less frequently, the library was still a resource I relied on. As a teen, I liked to go and rent a movie there, as I didn’t want to spend my money on a new release only to watch it once. I remember I used to rent it on a Saturday, as because the library was shut on a Sunday, it meant that I could keep the one day rental until Monday. So I’d have a little movie night with a bag of popcorn and cookies from the supermarket bakery, and thought it was all pretty exciting stuff.
Whilst on study leave for my A-levels, the internet stopped working, and so I sat for the day in the library finishing off my coursework. It saved the cost of traveling on the bus into school, and meant that I had a day completely focused on finishing it all off, without the distraction of social media, and made me remember the value of having library, which over the years I had started to forget.
But it also important to reiterate the importance of the books themselves that are housed in a library, and what they provide by being there. They give people the opportunity to read, which is something invaluable. Books can be expensive, so having the vast resource of choice available to the whole community is great. Not only this, but it is also good for the environment, as it means less books are having to be printed, due to the sharing nature of a library.
Yes, as an adult we may read the newspaper, a magazine, or scroll through an online article, but how often do we properly immerse ourself in a good book? A book that you scramble to turn each, crisp page, and can’t wait to read more tomorrow due to the anticipation the plot provides. Words so thoughtfully put together that they can stir up emotions of sadness, humour and happiness. You become so involved in the words of a novel, that you treat the characters almost like friends, you wonder what you would do in their situation, or what advice you would give them and begin to value them as someone you know. All of this, from words alone.
By closing down a library you would lose all of this. Yes it is expensive to keep this resource running, and the increase in resources available on the internet could be seen as reducing the need for libraries. But to close them completely? Well, that would make me lost for words…