Sarah Childs provided us with a copy of a letter she sent to MP Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport), which we wanted to share with you.
Dear Mr. Hunt,
I am writing to you regarding the cuts that are being proposed to library
services across the country. I should begin by stating that I am currently
training to be a librarian, but my objections to these proposals are as a
citizen, not as a library school student.
I am fortunate enough to be from a household where there were plenty of
books, and as I grew older, an internet connection. However, I still used
the library service widely as it allowed me to make my own decisions about
what I wanted to read, rather than my parents making those choices for me.
As a somewhat shy child, whose lack of confidence held me back at school
early on, the books I took out of the library helped me believe in myself,
and my school marks quickly improved.
When I grew older, and I was applying to university, I used my local and
school libraries to do the extra reading to help me clinch a place at the
University of Cambridge. I was the only person from my state school who got
a place at Oxbridge, and I firmly believe it was due to* *not only the
reading I had done specifically for the interview, but also all the
information I had imbibed from a young age in the library.
As you will know from your own education, the libraries at Oxbridge are
absolutely outstanding, and I remained amazed and fascinated by all the
information at my disposal. Additionally, the money I saved from barely ever
having to buy a book could be used for other purposes, such as a trip to
Sweden to assist me with my dissertation.
However, whilst at university, it became clear to me that not everyone had
this same reverence for the libraries at our university. I remember speaking
to a boy in the year below who had been at a private school, and was just
about to start his first year of his degree. He said to me, “Well, *of
course*, ALL the key texts on our reading list were in my school library, so
I’ve read them already…” It had never even occurred to me previously that
anybody at any school would have such high level sociological and political
texts in their school library.
I do not want the above story to read as an attack on private schools.
Rather, I think it shows the massive disparity between different groups in
our society in terms of their access to information. Last year, I lived in
the London Borough of Hackney and it became clear to me whenever I used the
public libraries, that there were some people there who were very dependent
on the library service. I often saw people in there who appeared to be using
it to support their businesses, such as selling things on the internet.
I feel that it is very easy to dismiss the importance of libraries in the
digital age but in fact the access that libraries are providing to e-books
and the internet are all the more vital. In difficult economic times, these
resources, alongside the help of trained, paid and dedicated staff can make
all the difference in someone’s life. Just like that boy I spoke to at
university, I worry that some of the people making these decisions about
libraries do not appreciate what it is like to not have all the information
you could want within easy reach.
I therefore urge you to do anything in your power to stop library cuts,
whether they are in the form of charging for internet use, a decrease to the
book funds, or outright library closures. Thankyou for reading this email –
I only hope you act upon it.
Yours sincerely, Sarah Childs