I have previously blogged about the value of public libraries to me and my family. A few months ago we set up a new blog listing the books we borrow including their cost, Overdue Books. One of the reasons behind setting up this blog was to show the true cost of the books we borrow. A common argument against the need for public libraries is that books are cheap, why borrow when you can just buy. While some books are relatively cheap and while there is lots of material free online to read this doesn’t mean its the type of material I want to read or introduce my young children too. I am also in the fortunate postion to be able to afford to buy some books and have online access, however this is not the case for everyone.
Overdue Books is keeping a count of all the books we borrow from the library including costs where possible, a blog post ‘counting the cost’ has technical details on how this has been done. In under 2 years if we had bought all the books we borrowed from the library we would have spent an estimated £3400, this works out roughly as a book habit of £150 a month, definitely not something we could afford.
Our young son is the biggest user of the library in terms of number of books he borrow. I think having such a wealth and variety of books is a huge benefit in terms of his development, use of imagination, his language skills etc. Not something you can add a value to.
He is able to choose from, what I recognise, as a good and appropiate collection of material far superior to what you would find in many bookshops. While online bookstores have a much wider range of stock he is too young to successfully browse and select items also there would be the cost of purchase, which as I previoulsy mentioned would be too prohibitive .
I have been interested to see my son’s use of the library and acknowledge that it is much more than just borrowing books. He has learned a sense of community and sharing, knowing he needs to return the books so other people can have a chance to borrow them as well. The freedom to borrow any material without any consequences such as cost, means he can be adventurous in his reading, if he doesn’t like it he can just return it. The library also provides a safe environment where he meets other children and parents as well as the opportunity to take part in some of the activities run by the library.
The borough where we live, Warwickshire is currently running a 12 week consultation from March 18 until June 9 as the council is planning budget cuts of approx 27% over the next 3 years to the library and information service. These cuts include the closure of a number of libraries. From completing the consultation document I was left a little unclear as to what impact the consultation will have considering it seems like the decision to close the libraries has already been made. The tone of the document made me think the purpose of the consultation was mainly to see if anyone else wanted to take over the running of these libraries. Personally I have concerns about community run libraries in terms of their sustainabilty to in maintaing standards.
It is really disheartening to see that many local authorities across the UK are looking to close libraries as part of their cost cutting measures. We recently had a new addition to the family and is already a member of our public library, I do hope for the sake of future generations we do not lose something as valuable as our public libraries as without them it would be a poorer society.