For the love of libraries

Libraries matter. As a writer and a reader I live and breathe libraries.  My earliest childhood memories are of walking down to the local library where I lived in East Barnet in Hertfordshire and fiercely sniffing the inside of the books.  It was there that I discovered my love of Milly Molly Mandy, Brer Rabbit, Rupert Bear, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables and a veritable host of other delicious childhood favourites. Later in my teenage years I found libraries a place of refuge from the chaos of adolescent life and still later when I studied communications and creative writing at university, libraries became my ‘go-to’ sanctuary.

Now that I straddle both sides of the Atlantic, living in America and the United Kingdom I am crumpled with feelings of loss at what has happened to our beloved library system in the UK.  There is NO money in our coffers to support our local libraries.  They are shutting down in droves.  Our libraries are underfunded and if it were not for teams of dedicated UNPAID volunteers running our local libraries we would have nothing, nada, empty shelves.

Why can’t we do it like the Americans?

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My local library in Los Angeles – Beverly Hills Library

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Americans take pride in their libraries.  The money is still flowing from state coffers.  Philanthropists donate money to dedicated libraries.  They are housed in beautiful buildings and are fully stocked.

 

Now compare this …

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My local library in Milford on Sea in Hampshire, U.K.

Spot the difference!

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And let me ensure you, if it wasn’t for that wonderful band of volunteers who cheerfully keep our library going for a few days a week, we wouldn’t even have this. This little library is still a wonderful place to be.  So thank you Milford on Sea Library. Your books still smell good.

But us Brits still have this – and this is one great British Institution we can remain very proud of indeed –

The British Library

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The British Library Reading Room inside the British Museum, Bloomsbury, before the move of the British Library to its current location at St.Pancras.
The British Library Reading Room inside the British Museum, Bloomsbury, before the move of the British Library to its current location at St.Pancras.

Books are our lifeline to another world.  They educate our young, our middle-aged and our old.  They offer companionship and dream-time. They entertain and inform us and teach us about the human condition. They keep our brains active and stop us from going mad. If you are like me and actually worship books, libraries become our churches.

Keep libraries free, come on UK – you can do better.  The USA definitely (dare I say it) ‘trumps’ us on this one. More funding for UK libraries – raise the battle cry!

For the love of libraries

7 thoughts on “For the love of libraries

  1. Lin says:

    Excellent article ! I saw a post the other day asking “wouldn’t it be great if there was a Kindle that didn’t ever require a battery ? ” and the wonderful response was ” What…you mean like a BOOK ?” !!

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  2. I love libraries, but have been very guilty over the past months of neglecting it. I love books and seem to buy loads of second hand books, hence I have shelves of books which look wonderful, yet seldom read. When I do get one down and smell it ‘fiercely’ it feels intoxicating, then I read the first few lines and they scream mediocre at me! I think I need more patience x

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  3. Karen McClellan says:

    Like so many things in life, a love for reading is fostered in the family home. I was lucky to have a dad who loved the library, and used to take us often. Now my books are precious to me, and I can’t imagine a life without them. I suppose libraries will have to find alternate ways to get funding, as government support is sadly failing them.

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