It has been my intention for a week or so now to comment on the fate of our poor libraries, which, like almost every other institution out there, are set to suffer under the spending cuts the Tories are implementing at the moment in order to address the national deficit. I don’t want to delve too deeply into politics here (although perhaps that’s hypocritical of me considering the fact that, with this post, I am approaching decisions that have emerged from that very arena) I do understand the need to make cuts, etc, and it certainly isn’t merely our libraries that are facing the chop. However, as a book fanatic and a lover of anything in the community that promotes knowledge and learning, when I heard the tale on the breakfast news of a small local library facing closure at the hands of the local counsel, it made my heart sink.
I’m a realistic individual, and as I have said, I do genuinely understand that cuts need to be made; the spending cuts that the likes of our hospitals and schools are facing are frightening (though also unsurprising as it seems clear to me that these institutions must utterly devour finances.) I have trawled the internet for information as to how much it costs to run a library, and, although I have found plenty of articles declaring how much planned library closures will save (millions here and tens of millions there..) I have seen little to convince me, layman that I am, of how terribly, how awfully expensive it is to run a small local library with a couple of members of staff (more often than not individuals who are as valuable as the literature on the shelves; on hand to share their passion and knowledge with readers.)
I live in a country where knowledge is not something exclusively reserved just for men or the upper echelons of society. I live in a country where, whatever your material circumstances, you may, for a minimal fee, join your local library and read. Not just read…….conduct research……socialise….look for jobs…surely activities that our government must want to encourage and that can only help to drag us out of the economic minefield we are navigating at this moment in time?
My parents took myself and my brother to the local library on a regular basis when we were children and the sheer joy in selecting something brand new to read has, and will never, abandon me. Even if I only managed to read just one book a month, I would insist on taking out as many as the library would allow (8 or 9 at a time I believe) just to sit and stare at them looking so very pretty on my bedside table (bearing scary resemblance to my TBR pile nowadays!) Imagine if that had never been an option? If my nearest local library had been too far away? Although my parents certainly bought us books as children, would I have been able to sub-consciously develop that love and respect for the written word that I have today without the introduction of a library? Would I have merely been exposed with English literature lessons at school and the dry teaching and over-analytical approach that discouraged many of my friends from ever really developing an appreciation for books into adulthood?