A recent article in The Bookseller detailed the funding crisis facing libraries in the United Kingdom. It really touched my heart. I loved visiting the library on rainy days and coming home with a book. When I was on maternity leave, before my baby arrived, I would go down once a week and get four or five books to see me through! And now, I take my children to the library as much as I can. They love it and always have. But, after years of declining financial support from central government to local government, it appears the situation of libraries closing will be even worse by 2020.
Up and down the country libraries are shutting their doors for good and this has a huge impact on our communities. In my local library there are many groups for all ages to come and socialise – be it the elderly, or babies – everything from scrabble clubs to baby bounce and rhyme are held here. Not only do libraries provide educational services, but they are a place where people can mingle and chat and find company, where they may otherwise be alone. This is a service that can’t be quantified or a value placed upon. Unfortunately, it’s also one that doesn’t really get evaluated when it’s all about bean counting.
What’s the answer?
I wish I knew. I realise that funding cuts are inevitable and that something has to give, but do libraries need to be one of them? They are protected somewhat by the Public Libraries Act, which requires councils to provide a library service, but what form that may take will undoubtedly be changing in the future.
Bricks and mortar and, behind staffing costs, the next most expensive outlay and with redundancies having taken place for years within these services, it follows that the buildings libraries are housed in will, most likely, be next.
I just hope we don’t end up having to do all our reading online. For those who aren’t computer literate it can be scary and most of us just love to actually hold a book in our hands. Whatever solutions they come up with, I really hope we keep actual, real life, books in places people can actually visit.
What can we do?
If you can, visit your local library! Take part in a talk, a club or just go and see what books there are. I guarantee that there will be at least a hundred you’ve never heard of. Whilst change is inevitable, let’s make a stand for our libraries!