Today is National Libraries Day. There, I bet you didn’t know that?
It’s pretty much what it says on the tin- a day for raising awareness of libraries, and of celebrating all that they contribute to our lives and communities. It’s also of special significance to me, both as a writer and as a campaigner to save Wokingham’s libraries from privatisation.
To me, the library is the mark of civilisation. It shows that we value knowledge so highly, and believe so strongly that it should be available to all (and for the betterment of all) that we are willing to provide access to it to everyone. A bold idea, but a good one, and fundamentally a right one.
A library, to me, is like a magic cave in a children’s story. Filled with untold wonders, just waiting to be uncovered. I have been lucky throughout my life to live in very close proximity to excellent libraries. As a child, learning to read at primary school, I savoured the hour or so after the day finished, when I could go and lose myself amongst opening pages and chapters as I tried to narrow down my decision to just one book.
More than ever, our libraries seem to be under threat now. In these hard times, they present an easy target for the pruning shears of local government. So many are being cut back, closed down, or (in true Wokingham Tories’ style) sold off. On today, of all days, we need to understand and appreciate how short-sighted and foolish that is.
Libraries offer so many things to us. To the our children, they give endless worlds of fun and imagination right at our fingertips, never to be cut off by the parental cry of “We can’t afford it”. They offer a lifeline of internet access to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it, so essential in our increasingly digital and virtual world. They offer every one of us the answers to so many questions we wonder both casually and urgently.
Every pound spent on library services is an investment, never a waste. The influence libraries had on me was a lifelong passion for reading, and an avenue of escape which I now look to make a career. And if they did that for me, imagine what they could do for others.
Can we live without libraries? Of course we can. But ask yourselves, what sort of life would that be?