Category Archives: stories

Henry’s story – Libraries are being sidelined

Returning to a blog post forced upon most of my fellow school compatriots, in this course, I’d like to talk about Libraries. I am currently partaking in the DofE Bronze course, something that I will talk about at a later period, probably after I have completed it, due to my opinions on the true nature of it and perhaps how those comments might be taken in a way not beneficial to my completion of it,  and as part of my volunteering, I am working at a homework club, after school. This is a rather simple task, where I sit there and help children with their homework, and attempting to impart my knowledge to them in an interesting way without them vomiting profusely. But this has brought something back to me; the fact that Libraries are darn useful. I can recall myself, sitting in a library and reading books about Physics and History at the ages of 6 and 7. But Libraries are now an endangered species. They are at risk of cuts by local councils, bottlenecked by old systems and ideals for running the libraries. But as the internet is becoming more and more powerful, libraries are being sidelined. The extra services they provide over the books, such as the homework clubs, or use of the computers are required for some people, and indeed help to flourish people and their skills. But I think that for now, libraries are here to stay – for the sole reason the internet is not fully open. Libraries represent the diversity of knowledge and the freedom of that knowledge currently does not exist fully on the internet. It is possible that if several censorship laws are passed, knowledge previously garnered from the internet would have to be found in a library, a nostalgic experience for many. Thus, I think what has to happen is we use libraries as our backup, for the possible burning of the modern day Library of Alexandria; the hub of knowledge that is the internet. We require an equilibrium between the two. This may simply be the case however in countries with more wealth, but I think that in poorer countries struggling to make the jump, knowledge is what is needed, and the library can provide that. But libraries have to be supplemented by the great hive-mind of the Internet, to allow the extra services and knowledge that the library provides become a small amount compared to what the internet provides, but have enough force to show the governments that Libraries are here to stay.

I write this blogpost inspired by, and hoping to share awareness of National Libraries Day, occuring on the 4th of February. I thoroughly encourage you to spend some time in your library that day, and perhaps help out with spreading this post, and National Libraries Day.

On 2 interesting library related notes, firstly, has anyone seen my hardback copy of Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. And secondly, the library I volunteer at, well I owe them about £1350 in late fees for a book I “borrowed” when I was 5. It was about trains. Yeah…

Henry (direthoughts.com)

What a valuable community resource

Sutton Coldfield library user John Pedder has kindly given us permission to reproduce the letter he wrote to his local newspaper about library services in his area. This was written in response to the Editor’s piece about Birmingham City Council’s apparent reluctance to reinstate Sutton Coldfield’s Library, which has been closed for several months since asbestos was discovered in the building.
Dear Sir, 
Ross Crawford’s View point last week should warn us of Birmingham Council’s lack of commitment to Library services in the community; for a town centre the size of Sutton Coldfield not to have a Library would be disgraceful.
Also, the Council’s latest cost-cutting proposal would see staff at the main Library in each constituency cut to 4 full time staff plus Saturday and  lunchtime assistants. This, together with an increase in opening hours to 6 days a week, would reduce the average number of staff on duty from about 6 to less than 2.5. It is ridiculous to expect a busy Library with typically 400-600 visitors per day to operate with so few staff.
The Council may claim that volunteers can make up the numbers, but as each volunteer is unlikely to work for more than one day a week, it would require at least 5 volunteers for every staff member lost – needing at least 25 volunteers for every main Library.
It would be better if the people making these decisions on the Council had actually worked in a Library and knew what a valuable community resource they provide.
John Pedder, Erdington.

Mobile Libraries: Past Successes; Future Directions?

Thanks to Richard, a former mobile librarian in the Scottish highlands, who sent us this post highlighting the importance of mobile library services.

 

Coincidences can be serendipitous. The other day, a chance encounter in town found me chatting to Marie; one time head of a primary school on my old mobile itinerary, and now like me retired. We caught up on the intervening years, and recalled the many happy and productive days of our previous association. Later the same day, while visiting my centenarian mother in her care home, I was delighted to see a new resident, Annie; a partially disabled lady for whom I had undertaken regular home visits with books. Now ninety three, her mind remained sharp and clear; a reminder that a fondness for light romance need not dull the brain!

These two meetings brought home to me, not just the personal joys of my life as a mobile librarian in the Scottish highlands, but also a very real sense of the good my colleagues and I were able to achieve in our work. Today, when the speed and uncertainty of change threatens the very existence of mobiles, past achievements may hold pointers to a continuing future. Once, our remit was to supply the widest possible range of library services to rural communities; a situation we recognize to be no longer sustainable as a whole. But, exemplified here in the stories of Annie and Marie, there exist areas within which I believe a mobile library service offers a positive, cost-effective way forward.

Marie was the best kind of primary teacher; an enthusiastic polymath who drew no false distinctions between art and science, inspiring her pupils to learn through the shared joys of the spoken word: in debate, song, drama and reading aloud. She always encouraged me to play a proactive part in school life, and thus I became in addition to my normal library duties a storyteller, a shennachie in the local scots; a role I was able to develop to include all the dozen or so schools on my regular round. Issues soared. Beginning with simple stories for nursery classes and pre-school groups, I expanded my scope to include all ages up to twelve; giving readings of classics old and new, poetry, even some of the more dramatic exerts from Shakespeare. I have a particular abiding memory of holding one class spellbound by a recitation of Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

Writers like Kipling may be anathema to modernists, but the themes of courage and resourcefulness displayed in tales such as Rikki bear comparison with those seen in, say, The Gruffalo; and can be equally enjoyable, both to read and to hear. The key to that enjoyment is the human voice and its use to convey all the excitement, colour and meaning which a given text may contain. Once you establish the links between the written word and the endlessly vivid world of a child’s imagination then the act of their learning to read becomes a pleasure, and, once achieved, a lifelong joy. Those manning mobile libraries with school clients are uniquely placed to provide such inspiration, having all the necessary resources to hand. Where a suitable bond of trust has been created, teaching staff are only too delighted to accept our assistance.

Mobile library comes to Beckford (Jonathan Billinger)

Mobile library comes to Beckford (Jonathan Billinger)

Trust, and the human voice, is just as important at the other end of life’s spectrum. Annie, recently widowed and with her family far away, lived in relative isolation in an anonymous housing scheme. As the years passed and her health deteriorated visits to the mobile became more and more difficult; a situation mirrored in the experiences of many of our older customers. Whereas a dedicated housebound mobile served the needs of the city of Inverness no such facility existed for the country areas. I began to adjust our timetables accordingly, in order to accommodate home visits. These were well received, and, as word spread, we began to receive requests to visit from folk who had never previously been able to access library services. Once again our issues climbed. More than that, we found these visits to be doubly rewarding; not only were our clients able to enjoy their books, but they also gained from regularly seeing a friendly face and a few minutes of craic – not to mention the odd cuppa. And, for our part, many lasting friendships were forged; together with the occasional sadness as time took its inevitable toll.

Dear gentle Annie passed away only a short time after her admission to the home; despite crippling disabilities she had managed on her own for nearly twenty years beforehand. Did our home visits play any part in helping her stay independent, happy and content; and perhaps less of a burden to the exchequer? Accountants, necessary though they are, cannot quantify such factors, any more than they can supply a monetary value for improved reading performance in schools; but my answer would be a resounding yes, just one factor amongst several, no doubt, but a vital one nevertheless. Marie has no doubts either, yes she saw the mobile primarily as another tool in her workshop; but that is surely a good thing, a good place to be. What seems too often overlooked is just what a powerful tool that can be.

There has always been a tendency, in Britain at least, to view mobile libraries as slightly eccentric, a bit of an anachronism, certainly expendable once the financial chips are down. But, give them the opportunity to show what they can do, how much they can achieve, and a very different picture emerges. I do not doubt that I was fortunate; I had the advantage of an enlightened management, willing to indulge my hunches, allowing me space and time to experiment; nor was I alone, with other colleagues from within our fleet of twelve also happy to respond to changing circumstances. But the bottom line rests with the individual; you have got to want to do it, to be prepared to move the boundaries and to make the time.

That time has passed for me, but I am happy to report that, despite some inevitable cut-backs, mobile usage here remains healthy. Suzi, my successor, continues to make improvements and adaptations of her own. New faces at Marie’s old school make her as welcome as ever, and utilize her skills to the full. The numbers of older and disadvantaged folk following in Annie’s footsteps will carry on growing. Mobiles are not only uniquely valued; more to the point they are needed. But, if you are going to make that point, and make it stick, you are going to have to demonstrate its inherent value.

And there is only one way to do that; get out on the road and prove it. Get the results in loans; printed, pictorial, digital; get the backing of public and professionals alike; use the media, local papers love positive stories; don’t wait to be asked, volunteer where you see a need you can fill; above all, be prepared to give of yourself. Mobiles can have a real future; and ensuring that future is a task that can be immensely rewarding – to all concerned.

Shush no more

 

Last week, I began a writing residency at Huddersfield Library, which ends this Saturday (9th July). But the title of ‘writer-in-residence’ is misleading; I’m not running writing workshops in schools or community centres. Instead, I’m listening to people’s stories about why they use the various library services, watching their routines and, in a sense, writing about what happens in a library. I confess that when I approached the library about doing a residency, I had very few expectations. I just wanted to sit there, listen to people and write about their lives, which is why I have approached the research as a personal project. Now, after only four days of moving between the various sections – lending, local history, knowledge transcription service, reference, sound and vision, childrens, art gallery – my head is spinning somewhat.

When Voices for the Library asked me to write a short piece about my research, I became paralysed with indecision. How can I possibly convey the value of the library as sharply as the librarians, bloggers and researchers who are encouraging the groundswell of public support against library closures? Do I write about how, on my first day, I waited outside the library steps at 9.20am for the doors to open, and watched a small crowd form, eager to get to the computers, get that job application sent, pay their bills online, or return that book. Or maybe I could write about how, last week when I sat in the reference library, 32 people entered in an hour to either locate someone using the professional directories and the internet, apply for jobs online, use the computers or fax, or the free scanner, ask for reference material, and read the newspapers and specialist magazines for free. Or maybe should write about what happens in the Light Reading Room and the success of the coffee mornings and the PALS (Practice Activity and Leisure Scheme) Art Group for stroke survivors.

‘Where else could you hold these sessions?’ I asked one of the organisers today.

‘We couldn’t,’ was his answer.

Maybe I could mention the children’s library, where pre-nursery sessions last week brought in new members, and where a registered child-minder with 16 years experience brings the children she cares for every single day. She plans their reading according to what is happening in their lives, such as having a new baby brother, or going to school for the first time.

‘I sell this place to everyone,’ she explains, ‘the parents see a difference in their children after they’ve been coming here a while.’

Then there’s the transcription service, and the team of four women who should be given medals for the work they do for the visually impaired. You name it, they Braille it, then record it as a podcast. Their volume of work is staggering. I should add my own example of how, as a researcher and writer with just an idea in my head and no money to support it, got a unanimous ‘you are welcome here,’ when I approached them. ‘We want you to succeed in your project,’ one staff member said, ‘we like to help writers.’

So, as a researcher, I already have a lot of rich data, and as a writer, I can make something of this data. Researchers often aim the findings of their work at policy makers, hoping to change policy. But who will listen to these voices? Will it be the mid-level policy adviser, fast-tracked through the civil service graduate scheme, who now finds himself in the midst of the library storm with his hands clapped firmly over his ears? I hope someone’s listening. I also hope there is a rich patron out there – I make no apologies for this shameless ‘wanted’ ad – who can help me extend this research throughout Yorkshire for a while longer.

In the meantime, some stories will appear on my blog this week, and the manuscript for a non-fiction book will be written over the coming months. If you would like me to visit your library, then please get in touch.

Nilam Ashra-McGrath is a writer and researcher for the non-profit sector. She is blogging about her residency at http://nilamsnet.wordpress.com/

 

The Library Tribe

 

My name is Tony Smith and I have recently started to document my local library in a photographic project I call ‘Library Tribe’. It started as a reaction to the closure of my local branch library, which was only a couple of streets walk away. I had taken an image in there just over a year ago. The building also doubled up as my local polling station and that is where I last cast my vote in the May 2010 parliamentary elections. I don’t recall being asked to vote on losing my library at the time.

NewImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hotpixuk/4377223616/ Above, Grappenhall library as it was March 2010

The library was a single room, but a very friendly meeting place for the locality. The librarian there was also an old neighbour of mine, with children who had grown up at local schools. So she knew what books would match the adjacent school projects etc.

Researching the closure on the web it’s clear that some savings were at the root of the decision avoiding too much local consultation with parish council etc. Very sad.

I have always been an enthusiastic user of local libraries in Glossop in Derbyshire UK, where I grew up, Liverpool, where I worked for a number of years and in Cheshire, where I have spent the last twenty or so years. I have also encouraged my son, who is nearly eight, to get to know them too. As a consequence his reading has come on leaps and bounds and he has a real thirst for knowledge. This ‘Worlds biggest machine’ type books, have really brought his experience to life.

NewImage

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hotpixuk/5700476420/in/set-72157626551064605/ Ramblers Best walks In Britain

I am somewhat baffled about how a big chunk of the population know little about libraries, what they offer and why they are an important institution that should be preserved. By ‘preserved’ I don’t mean in amber, like prehistoric spiders. Libraries have a different role than twenty or even ten years ago.

A school friend who was a librarian was instrumental in getting me more hooked on what the library, something I paid for out of my council tax, could do for me. She let me know that for 25p I could request the library to purchase any new or obscure music album. These were the days of the 12” vinyl long player and much of my extensive love or music was formed at this time.

Libraries also furnished me with Linguaphone and language tapes to learn the basics to backpack around Japan, South America and Europe. Also some of the guide books and maps to plan it came from various libraries too.

NewImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hotpixuk/5708007584/in/set-72157626551064605/ The Dilbert Principle

For work too while I have lived in Warrington, north west England, libraries have been an invaluable source of textbooks on everything from database design to better use of Adobe Photoshop. I have never needed to use the local archives, but I know plenty of friends and family who have. Always they have told me of great service they had and the genuine interest of local library archivists.

NewImage

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hotpixuk/5718425249/in/set-72157626551064605/ The Lost Life Of Eva Braun

During my Library Tribe project I have met many people coming out of the library. Some are reading for pleasure, fun, work or self-help. Many borrowers are taking out books for advice to help others. This is becoming more relevant as UK CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) finding is also being cut. Rather than having places to go for help, everyone will have to increasingly help themselves or each other.

Many people I have met too have been in there using the internet, showing that again libraries are adapting. Not everyone can afford to have the internet, or sometimes a land-line at home these days. Providing it stays open I know that my remaining local libraries have a lot to offer. It’s important we spread the word before these valuable resources are lost forever. For Warrington there is also the irony that this was its Central Library was the first rate-supported library in the UK, revolutionary in Victorian times. One more reason for no more cuts here please!

Libraries are about people: Sam’s story

It may seem obvious, but I think we can sometimes forget that libraries are not just about books, they’re about people: the people that write the books, that select the books, and those that borrow and use the books. I admit this is an overly simplistic view to make a point, but I am deeply disturbed by the lack of concern for those people shown by the local authorities of this country in their rush to disband library services as we know them. Times are hard and money is short, but even in the toughest times the current and future needs of the community should drive change rather than ideology or simple cost-cutting.

It’s easy to get nostalgic about libraries, and I personally owe a huge debt to the public library service. Books were a luxury that my family couldn’t afford, and my weekly visits with my nan to the little library round the corner fed my appetite for fiction. My love of art was nourished by the beautiful art books that I borrowed, none of which I could ever have afforded to buy. I borrowed travel guides about holiday destinations when I was a carefree twentysomething, and plundered the shelves of cookery books when my son refused to eat anything I cooked. The library has provided entertainment, knowledge, comfort and reassurance at each stage of my life so far.

And now, as a family with two children we regularly use a number of libraries close to us, and our life is enriched in many ways: the children borrow books to read for pleasure and for homework; my husband and I borrow books to read on the daily commute and in our spare time; we all looked forward to Rhymetime when they were little, and we have fun taking part in the activities for children in the holidays, as well as playing games on the computers. We are lucky as our local library is well used and is not directly threatened, but behind the scenes things have been cut back drastically, and this will undoubtedly affect frontline services. The number of professional librarians has been halved, and training budgets are a thing of the past. The library service admits that it is severely underfunded, and as I write the council are seeking alternative ways of providing it. These alternatives include being run by volunteers or outsourcing to private companies.

I’m not opposed to investigating other models, but what I do find offensive is the implication that the service does not need to develop alongside its community and is not worth investing in. Advances in technology are moving rapidly and without investment public libraries risk becoming out of date, and therefore expendable. Will library volunteers want to invest time and effort in managing complicated IT networks and understanding the needs of their local community? Will a private company want to run a holiday reading scheme and associated events if they don’t generate profit? My concern is how we ensure that our library services are not decimated to make short-term, relatively small-scale savings which in the long run could have devastating effects on the prosperity of our young people. I want the little library round the corner to be there for me in my old age, lending me ebooks and providing subscriptions to online resources, but also as a place for me to meet my friends and take my grandchildren to borrow books. Books and information may increasingly be virtual, but people will always still need the library as a place: please use your library card and your voice to show how much your library means to you and your community.

 

 

Somewhere special – K M Lockwood

Somewhere special

In the morning

A young couple come in hesitantly. The proud new dad still finds the buggy awkward to manoeuvre and mum is oh-so-tired. Joe and Kulvinder want to do the best by their precious baby but they have little spare cash, what with taking time off work and childcare to think about.

They know encouraging a baby to love language is like breast feeding – one of the best starts in life. But who can they ask? Which books are suitable? Where can they find a fun introduction to learning?

In the afternoon

Elaine comes in as beautifully made up as she did when Roger was alive. She comes in to learn how to use a pc. Always a bright cookie, she would like to save money by paying her bills on-line. She comes in to get the large print books which let her escape to other worlds. She comes in to be with other people. It’s her little trip out.

Just after school

Ade runs in with his homework in his bag. He finds a spot and settles down to work. He is keen to learn but there is no space in his Mum’s tiny flat. He finds something he doesn’t understand. He gets up and asks a librarian and she helps him find reference books and useful websites.  He grasps the new concept. Tomorrow he will shine in class.

In the school holidays

Courtney sidles in and finds a quiet corner between the little children’s books and the Young Adult fiction. No one notices her there; she can read what she likes. She sits with her scuffed shoes that don’t fit tucked under her.

She has found somewhere safe from the girls who make fun of her thin, cheap clothes. She has found somewhere safe till Dad comes back from work. She has found somewhere safe to dream of better times.

They have all come to the right place: they have all come to the library.

K. M. Lockwood is a writer for children and young adults who lives by the sea in West Sussex.  Website is http://kmlockwood.com/

“Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.” – Matthew’s story

“Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”

So said Dwight D. Eisenhower, scourge of Nazis and the 34th President of the United States. I’m quoting him because libraries suddenly seem to have become expendable in the eyes of many local councils, not only in the UK but also America and who knows where else. It feels like a crime that we’re even in this situation, but here we are.

I’m biased, of course, because I’m a reader. One of my very few regrets about learning to drive a few years ago is that I miss out on all the spare reading time presented to me by long bus journies stuck in traffic (that and I’m getting old and so my eroded attention span means that achieving the Fifty Book Challenge this year is looking less likely than it should). Nevertheless, I’m a reader and shall be until I die, probably of blunt force trauma caused by a collapsing To Read Pile taller than me. A lot of that is down to my local library.

See, we used to go there on Fridays after school when I was a kid, working my way through the Thomas the Tank Engine collection, then Asterix and Tintin. The library is also responsible for me getting into Doctor Who; I didn’t watch the TV series so much as read the hardback Target novelisations, I pieced together the history of the show by reading the books out of order and without having any clear idea of how all the different characters fitted together. It helped that I take after my mom, as her side of the family contains most of the readers, and so I guess it’s ironic that my grandmother always had issues with the monsters and aliens in the sort of geeky shows I watched; it was her genes and Doctor Who books that made me a reader. The library just empowered that.

And so I remember avidly reading about all these characters, running to the library to get new stories. I remember one of Thomas’s friends getting stuck in a tunnel, and I think one of the smaller trains had to pull him out…

Asterix and Tintin, on the other hand… Obelix and Captain Haddock were my favourite characters, and Tintin may well have ignited my interest in science fiction with the Destination Moon / Explorers on the Moon duology and the Chariots of the Gods-inspired Flight 714.

And the first book I remember reading obsessively? The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I remember getting through it in a matter of hours, which was a bit of a surprise to my family, who weren’t perhaps used to that sort of speed reading. Again, thank the library.

Libraries have a central place in human civilisation. The Library of Alexandria is almost legendary, although a significant part of that legend is due to the fact that people kept burning it down. Same goes for the House of Wisdom in Baghdad (destroyed by the Mongols in 1258) and the ‘Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars’ policy carried out by China’s Qin dynasty; throughout history, libraries have been considered dangerous by dangerous men. And while its probably unfair to compare that sort of thing to today’s allegedly civic-minded busybodies, the end result is the same – no libraries, reduced access to knowledge, no-one to point the way through a maze of data and information and facts.

Nowadays people don’t tend to be burning down libraries, at least not in Dudley, but they’re under threat. It’s easy to take them for granted, but in a world where we can access a mountain of information with next to no quality filter, librarians should rule. Somewhere along the line, that building full of books has seen the skillsets of the people who work there gain in currency.

An anonymous source once said that “Books are the carriers of civilisation. Without books, history is silent, literature is dumb, science is crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books the development of civilisation would have been impossible. They are the engines of change.” You can argue that it’s the information and artistry contained in those books that matters, moreso than the actual medium, but regardless, libraries, books, information are important – especially when we know what to do with it. When the Dark Ages engulfed Europe, Irish monks saved the literature and learning of Rome and carried it forward, and now public libraries modestly attempt to try something similar, albeit in a world where there’s almost too much information and not enough discernment. In that world, we neglect libraries at our peril.

Matthew Hyde

why i love libraries … in 153 words or less – poem by Richard Pierce

why i love libraries … in 153 words or less
(based on my original poem why I love poetry … in 153 words or less)

because words bound and wrapped
on pages of many colours
sing new voices

because one borrowed book
can be better than thousands
of bought ones

because reading beats hearing
when the words make
their own meaning inside me

because small words can change big things

because the wind and the rain
and love and hate and fear
and tragedy and joy

because the world outside
is so huge and round

because inside each story
there is true greatness
and great truth

because words are the warmth of life

because these sanctuaries
are gateways to the gods
our one chance at wisdom

because faith is a promise
regardless of belief

because each book is
a life-time on its own
a summary of all we can

Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960, and lived in Germany for 11 years to 1974. Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, he is administrator and trustee for three grant-making charities. His debut novel Dead Men will be published by a major UK publisher in 2012. He is married, has four children, a cat, a Triumph Spitfire, a collection of epees, and thousands of books he’s still trying to find space for (in addition to all the books he borrows from Stradbroke Library). His web site is www.tettig.com, and can be found on twitter as @tettig. Richard’s story for VftL can be found here

‘Prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age’ – Richard’s story

We measure civilisations by what survives of them.

Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce

After the Holocaust, after genocide, the acts of destruction and barbarism remembered most clearly, despised most deeply are book burnings. In our collective memory they are inextricably linked with intolerance, persecution and massacre.

At the age of fourteen, I moved back to England after having lived in Germany for eleven years and was placed in all the bottom sets at my new school because I spoke strangely, because I exhibited none of the arts of social interaction my school mates had acquired. But I wanted to be educated. I had read Homer and Swift in German – why couldn’t I be allowed to use that knowledge now?

I was desperate to learn French, to be the best in French. So, every day, after school, I went to Doncaster Central Library, took the previous day’s copy of Le Monde from its shelf, sat down at a large, rectangular, melamine-topped table and read. On Day One, I understood less than a third of what I read; by the end of the year, I understood most of it (and fell in love into the bargain, with a girl whose name I never found out, who visited the library every day, too). I went on to study German, French and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge, and to spend time in one of the greatest libraries in the world, the University Library.

When, in 2006, we moved from Norway into this tiny village of Stradbroke in Suffolk, we were immensely grateful for the service provided by the library here, to help our children (and us) to become reacquainted with the English language. We are heavy users of our library, one of many libraries threatened with closure by Suffolk County Council. Much of the research for Dead Men, my debut novel to be published in 2012, would have been impossible without the support of the professionals running Stradbroke Library,

We all have the right to educate ourselves. The government has a statutory obligation to allow us to educate ourselves through the provision of a public libraries service. To devise a strategy which forces local councils to close library services is an abdication of responsibility and common sense, and a malicious attack on our rights as individuals, fuelled, to no small extent I surmise, by high-Tory squirism and the desire to suppress the development and free speech of individuals critical of the status quo.

I support the Voices for the Library campaign, because public libraries, especially rural ones, are the only way for many people to access knowledge, to access the Internet to inform themselves, to apply for jobs, to be a part of the world outside; the only way for older people to get hold of affordable, large print books, and to continue to be enveloped by human warmth and friendships they may not find at home, and, in turn, to keep their minds and bodies active for longer without having to find refuge in the (also underfunded) NHS. They are prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age.

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960, and lived in Germany for 11 years to 1974. Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, he is administrator and trustee for three grant-making charities. His debut novel Dead Men will be published by a major UK publisher in 2012. He is married, has four children, a cat, a Triumph Spitfire, a collection of epees, and thousands of books he’s still trying to find space for (in addition to all the books he borrows from Stradbroke Library). His web site is www.tettig.com, and can be found on twitter as @tettig.