Often it was after having been on a walk with my mum and our dog at that time, Teasel. She was left tied to a tree outside while we got to go in to that cave of book wonders. There was a certain dusky, musky smell that would hit as we walked in to the cool, dark, hushed room. An old, Victorian schoolhouse, the library had high ceilings and high up windows, and an old creaky wooden floor.I’d be allowed to wander down the aisles, staring at all the beautiful, differently coloured spines, until I’d made a choice and chosen a new book to take out. We’d then go together, hand in hand, to the smiling lady at the desk and she’d ask for my library card. Upon being proudly presented, the card would be beeped, the book stamped and, after some hanging around while the adults chatted, we’d be off again, back outside with the new book clasped tightly in my arms.
Many years later, I had the amazing privileged to study as an undergraduate at Oxford university. Truly a book-lover’s dream. Every college has its own uniquely beautiful library, each faculty (or department to use a simpler, less Oxfordy name!) had its own as well. And then, of course, the
mother Queen of all libraries, there was The Bodleian. I never got over the awe of being inside that book heaven. Although, anyone who has read The Historian will understand my slight creepings of fear when entering the darkest corners of the library alone! 😛
But what about now? What about in real adult life? How many of us use the library nowadays? How many of us even have a local library now?
Only last month a BBC article revealed that a staggering 8000 library jobs have disappeared in the last 6 years. 343 libraries have been closed, with plans for another 111 to be closed this year. Here in the UK, “Our public library system used to be envy of the world.” And now look at them.
The battle cry of those in favour of library closures would seem to be, What on earth do we need libraries for in this day and age? We have the internet. Everyone has tablets – no one reads physical books…. But this simply isn’t true. Libraries allow people of all classes and walks of life to access the same materials. They open doors to learning for children who come from poorer backgrounds. They provide a safe space to study for those from unstable homes. And they are a place of community in an ever more insular society.
As fellow book lovers I’d love to know your thoughts on this matter. Do you still use libraries? What do you feel about the closures?
PS Don’t just listen to me bang on about this. Here’s a few,
possibly definitely more articulate – words from Caitlin Moran about why we need to save libraries. Go take a listen to her for she is very wise.