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?
My local library in Los Angeles – Beverly Hills Library
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 …
My local library in Milford on Sea in Hampshire, U.K.
Spot the difference!
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
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!