In the news recently there has been a lot of talk about spending cuts; especially when it comes to libraries. Nearby Bristol has recently had a multitude of libraries be threatened with closure and only last week library staff there went on strike due to a proposed change in their working patterns.
I have a lot of experience with libraries; I have been a regular user of local and educational libraries all my life; I wouldn’t have survived my degree without them. For the last nine months I have also been working in a busy city centre library. As a child I loved going and would take out as many books as I could; I still do that now up to a point but unfortunately life gets in the way. Working in a library or a bookshop was always my ideal job and I am now lucky enough to be doing that. Libraries are the backbone of any society; they do so much but get little recognition. Those of you who are not regular library users may not even know how much people depend on them. My new job has given me a unique perspective into what a library system really does for the community. This might get into a long list but I want to highlight exactly why we need libraries. Starting at the beginning a library is a brilliant way to encourage children to enjoy reading for pleasure as well as to help them develop. A report a few years ago showed that in the UK 30% of children do not own a single book of their own and this has been shown to have negative consequences on their school work and engagement with reading. Encouraging parents to read stories to their children is also important and many libraries run story times and other events where parents can meet others and have a bit of a break.
The internet is not always the best source of information therefore a library can be a great place to help with homework and further education; in most degrees you cannot rely on online sources and libraries are a must. In the city library I work in the public computers are very well used and although this can at times seem like the wrong use of a library these facilities are vital to many. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a computer or is not competent enough to need one. However, so many things need to be done online now such as job searching, applying for benefits and contacting family abroad. During work I had heard a lot people say they couldn’t do without libraries.
The amount of people who use the library just as a safe and warm place to go is also staggering and I’m proud that we can offer that. There aren’t many other places you can go without spending money. For people who have maybe just come out of the prison system or who are trying to get back on their feet after being homeless libraries provide a free way for them to access the help they need. Some elderly or lonely people just want someone to talk to; my local library is the hub of the community. It might not be busy all the time but people like to go there to sit and meet up with friend and just have a quiet place to sit and read.
I haven’t really mentioned books yet and they are quite vital to a library. Without libraries elderly and housebound people would not have easy access to books. Audio books are free to visually impaired people and many libraries have a housebound service where someone handpicks books for an induvial and delivers them. Many value having a local library right on their doorstep; if everyone had to go to the main one library use might fall as it would difficult for many to get there. The amount of information and entertainment that you can access at a very small if not non -existent fee is amazing and we should make more use of these great community assets. Even if you don’t regularly visit one now I’m sure you remember doing the Summer Reading Challenge as a child or being taken to Storytime or being able to print that last minute essay when your printer had broken down. I could go on about all the other services like the mobile libraries and other outreach projects that libraries are involved in but the bottom line is that they are here for everyone.
I definitely believe that a library is something that we will all feel the loss of if it closes. Please support your local library.