Would I have discovered Nevinson and Ravillious? – Sue

I keep hearing that people don’t need libraries because “books are cheap and everyone can afford them.”

Well could I buy what I read? Let’s see….

Probably yes to the recent PD James titles, I know I’m going to enjoy them, popular author, bound to find some in the charity shop.

I doubt I’d have discovered Jed Mercurio or Justin Cartwright.

I certainly wouldn’t have read all 11 Volumes of C P Snow’s Strangers and Brothers.

Would I have even tried authors, like Dorothy Whipple who go in and out of vogue every 20 years?

For over 30 years I have kept a list of fiction authors whose work I want to read more of. Now standing at 293 authors, how could I buy all of their titles?

I’m currently browsing £70 worth of art books.  Without the library would I have made the leap from the impressionists that we are all familiar with to Bonnard and onwards to Barbara Rae? Would I have discovered Nevinson and Ravillious, would I have investigated the connections in British art that led me to visit the wonderful Kettles Yard?

In music, I started with Mozart and thanks to the Surrey Performing Arts library I discovered the world of choral music. Thomas Tallis and William Byrd yes I have bought them, after listening to library copies but you don’t often find John Sheppard in the budget CDs.

Casually picking up a Si Fi book as I did at 12 in the school library introduced me to the great Arthur C Clarke and on to Asimov’s robots. Forty years later I’m still interested and still trying to understand Stephen Hawking and sort my quasars from my quarks.

If I didn’t read non fiction books about Tudor England I wouldn’t have got so much from the portrait of Cromwell that Hilary Mantel paints in Wolf Hall.

And so it goes on and on……. Something sparks your interest and the library lets you investigate and learn.

I’m glad libraries have online resources and ebooks and social networks and apps – yes I can imagine an enthusiastic library user who is rarely seen in the library.

I do think there is a place for volunteers to allow libraries to offer even more.  My friend in the US volunteers 7 hours a week and treats it as seriously as her previous profession.

Please libraries get a move on with national funding, a national library card, national online resources and free inter library loans and revamp the joint fiction reserve idea.

And to the people who tell us that the phrase “huge financial reduction” means the same as “a great opportunity for the future”  they just need a dictionary!   I suggest they try in the library.


2 thoughts on “Would I have discovered Nevinson and Ravillious? – Sue

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Voices for the Library» Blog Archive » Would I have discovered Nevinson and Ravillious? – Sue -- Topsy.com

  2. hypatia

    Great post Sue. I would like to share my thoughts below.

    Latest figures via the MLA for 2008-2010 show some interesting statistics. There is much discussion about visits being “down” for libraries which seems to justify all the latest talk of cuts in public libraries. However if one looks at these figures one does not get a sense of “low” usage .


    Library Visits in England 275.8 MILLION in 2008-9 and 271.5 MILLION in 2009-10 so yes this is a drop of 1.6%. Active borrowers 10.3 MILLION down to 10 MILLION so 2.5% drop.


    There were 164 million visits to UK cinemas (England, Wales, Scotland) in 2008.

    Strictly Come Dancing series finale 19 December 2009 11.3 million viewers (probably UK wide – not just England.) and isn’t this counted as a popular successful show?

    England and Wales Cricket 2008, 1.5 million attended county matches – quoted as “a record”.

    Population UK 61.8 Million.

    Population in England 51 MILLION so averages out to 5 Library visits a year per person for the whole population? A fifth of the population use their library card on a regular basis. Is the Library really dead or slowly being hacked to pieces?

    Active borrowers means those people who borrow an item (book, CD, DVD, audio download etc) or use the web resources, book a PC, renew a book online, reserve a book etc. But what of the other users who don’t activate their card? One may still use the library – but not be a member – one is not obliged to be a member to use the other facilities. They can;

    attend children’s storytime, baby bounce or activities (free or nominal charge).

    use the Reference books – sit and study.

    read magazines and have a coffee.

    read the newspapers and hunt for jobs – or just come in for a warm because the local hostel kicks them out in the morning.

    attend exhibitions and lectures – very often free.

    ask the staff about any subject in the universe.

    find out about education courses and grant information.

    use the photocopier.

    use free wifi . etc. etc.

    Anyone can walk off the street and in to a Library.

    Even as a tourist (either from abroad or home grown) you will find the smallest town will have a library even if there is no museum or tourist office (well it’s the case at the moment!) You can trace your ancestors, find out about local history, while away a rainy summer afternoon, explore the architecture (perhaps in the larger cities),or perhaps you are relocating to the area and need to find important community information. All this and more.

    Let us look at some further figures;

    Children’s fiction borrowing UP 1.6%
    Adult fiction borrowing DOWN 1.2%
    New books bought DOWN 6.8%
    Lost service points DOWN 2.2%
    Lost staff DOWN 4.1%

    So we have fewer visits, libraries, new books and staff – could these be connected perhaps? The budget cuts have not just hit – year on year libraries have been getting hit. I would imagine most authorities have cut any “slack” in the last 5 years and are now hitting bone – and cutting the limbs and head off.

    Let us remember that the public have paid with their council tax for these services and have been promised, by an Act of Parliament, a “comprehensive and efficient service”.

    Libraries are essential to any civilized community. Information should be available to all – not just to those who can afford it. Libraries don’t discriminate – the academic professor researching a book, the single parent with 3 kids, the elderly, the jobless, the small business man (or woman), the students (the young, the mature, the OU), the avid reader with an appetite for books but not the budget – all are welcome. Libraries are often seen as neutral places – even to those who moan about the council and are battling about their planning, housing benefits, potholes, noisy neighbours etc. – they expect and get free unbiased information.

    All things considered Libraries are usually a very small part of a councils’ overall budget – but they give real value for money – if you want to look at it that way.


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