Why I spent my Saturday at the library
I love the library, prior to my accidental deleting of this blog there was more than one post about how the library was one of my favourite places. My purse contains library cards for a variety of towns and cities; Borehamwood, where I grew up, Shoreditch, where I currently live, High Wycombe, where I studied at university, St Albans, where I took my A levels. School libraries, art libraries, local libraries, no matter what one you visit they all have the same purpose. To encourage people to read, to educate themselves. Whether you are escaping in the pages of the latest blockbuster, looking at picture books with children, searching through history books, researching past lives. There are books for everyone.
When I moved in to central London one of the first things I did was to find my local library. I’ll admit it did take me 6 months to actually get down and signed up, but in that time I did not stop reading. I just didn’t have time, whilst settling in to my new life, to get to the library and fill out the necessary forms. As soon as I did I got myself in to a Sunday ritual, similar to the Monday ritual I had at home, to go to the library every couple of weeks and pick up a few books to keep myself entertained. Classics, modern fiction, short stories, poetry, easy reads. I wasn’t fussy. As long as at least one of the books challenged me as a reader.
It’s because of this, I feel today was an important day for myself, as a reader, for all the other readers out there, future book lovers and local communities. Today was a national day to ‘protest’ in the most peaceful way (well it is a library!) about potential closures of a large number of libraries across the UK (more info can be found here)
My local library, as far as I know, is not at threat from these closures, however, this does not mean it isn’t important for people to show how they utilise and need the library. I did this by visiting my library, I got out 5 books (list below for those who are curious!) and I sat in the library for over an hour having my own personal ‘read-in’. When I was checking out my books I asked the two young men behind the counter about the day, had they seen an increase in library users? Did they know of any planned events at this branch? What did they think of the day? I was a little shocked to find that not only did they know nothing about the day but that they were quite flippant in their feelings towards it. One went as far as to say ‘I only work weekends, if the library closes I’ll just get a bar job or something’. I was quite shocked by this, mainly because this campaign is well publicised but also, because I can’t imagine communities without libraries.
I am a vocal library supporter, not just as a library user, but because I remember how fun it was when I was younger to go to the library, to explore the shelves and find a little pile of books that I could take on family holidays, that I could sit in my room and read on rainy days. The library helped shape me as a reader. My parents bought me books, I was a privileged child, but I used to consider it a treat to go to the library and choose books for myself, to take a book I loved from my house and go to the library and read everything else that author had ever written. Be it Judy Blume or Sue Townsend, these books were the gateways to an alternative lifestyle. These were the books that got me started as a reader.
I went and protested today for myself and for my children. I would hate to think that in 10 years from now, or whenever I have children of my own, I won’t be able to take my kids to a local library to choose books that they want to read, to learn about different cultures, to rely on more than the internet for homework. I would hate to think that future generations will know the Chronicles of Narnia as a set of films (especially as they didn’t start the latest adaptations by making The Magician’s Nephew, but that’s a post for another day!), that they will not go on, as young adults, to appreciate some of my favourite books. They will not know about JD Salinger, F Scott Fitzgerald, the Bronte sisters, Hemingway, Kerouac. I could spend all day listing truly great writers here.
I can only hope that my small protest was a big enough cog in the greater machine and hopefully something will be done to stop libraries closing. Not just for book lovers like myself but for people all over the UK that want to learn, want to read and want to escape.
Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. – Lady Bird Johnson
My list of books!!
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fairy Tales – Andersen
The White Tiger – Aravina Adiga
A Year of Full Moons – Madelyn Arnold
Originally posted on http://jenattherockshow.blogspot.com/ blog.