Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, Reading

Library blues

Today I spent a few minutes on the phone with a nice lady from the Library.  Not unusual, I’ve phoned the library before in search of books, but this time was different.  Apparently book buying has been ‘paused’ in most of Birmingham’s public libraries because of cuts in their funding, and so they are appealing for books published in the last year to be donated.  (Here’s a link to the BBC news report )

There was quite a furore when the news broke.  Although I understand the view that donating books may only serve to validate cuts in the long term, I can’t subscribe to it.  The library service has been a friend to me for a long time now, and at the moment it’s a friend in need.  If I can help out, I will.

Here in London it’s the same story.  Libraries are closing, and those which survive are struggling.  It’s a complicated issue.  Should volunteers be used, to replace trained librarians?  Should the way libraries operate be changed?  Should library services take precedence over other social services?

Well, politics isn’t in my remit.  But it makes me sad to see that some of the libraries that I used as a child are now threatened with closure.  They were, and still are, places that held a great deal of magic.  And in my opinion, they perform a vital public service.  It’s true that library borrowing has fallen in the last ten years, but surely the answer to that is to encourage people to use our libraries more, not close them down.

But in a world of internet access and e-books, are libraries really still needed?  I’d say yes.  In the UK in 2013 the E-Learning Foundation estimated that 750,000 children of school age didn’t have an internet connection at home.  That number dwindles yearly, but there will always be students who depend on the library for internet services and books.  There are many different sections of the community who rely on the library – those who need to read in large print format for example, or those who can’t afford to buy books.

And visiting the library is not just a matter of need.  I have internet access and am lucky enough to be able to buy books, but the library is still valuable to me.  A place where I can browse and enjoy, try new authors, or find specialist books.  And since I’ve become a writer I’ve had the immense privilege of seeing my own books in the library.  So I’ve joined the campaign to support my local libraries in whatever way I can.

I’ll end with an apology, because I imagine that anyone taking the time to read this blog really doesn’t need to be told how valuable our libraries are!  But please bear with me, because today, I really need to say this one thing.  I love my library.

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14 thoughts on “Library blues”

  1. Wow, that is so sad, Annie. I was brought up in a home that couldn’t afford to buy books so I went every week to the library with my little (very dog-eared) library card and filled my bag with as many books as I could carry on the long walk home. It was a place not just of learning but of pleasure, that fostered my love of reading and where I felt at home. I feel for those kids whose only opportunity to get hold of a book is now being taken away from them. I still regularly use my library today.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Lousia. My impression is that the trend is towards larger, central libraries at the expense of the small local ones, and it seems to me that this will hit the kids the hardest. I used to visit our library every week when I was growing up too. I think that being able to choose any book you like, then take it home to read is so important. Encourages the habit of reading anything and everything 🙂

  2. This is a sad indictment, Annie! I guess libraries like bookshops have to remodel themselves to become relevant to a digital society etc etc, blah blah. And I believe they will – its just going to be a bit of a bumpy road getting there :-/

    I hope there’s never a day where the library isn’t part of everyones childhood.

    1. Yes Amy, there’s a lot of work to be done to take advantage of everything that the digital world offers. And it’s definitely a bumpy road, but like you I do believe we’ll get there 🙂

  3. I fell in love with Mills & Boon after I had my first daughter, and while she was sleeping I had time on my hands so I’d walk to the library pushing her in the pram, change my library books, go home and read all 6 and a couple of days later do it all over again. And when I was hunting for a new career that didn’t sap the life out of me but was something I loved to do, it was an obvious choice to write the books I’d fallen in love with. And if the library hadn’t been there, I might never have found my niche, the salvation of my sanity and the amazing friends I’ve made and loved for the past 25 years. So yes, Annie, I hope they stay afloat, and continue to inspire, educate and provide a wonderful research resource and community facility for many, many years to come.

    1. What better reason to keep our libraries strong, Caroline? Without the library we’d be ninety-something of your books the poorer! (Although I dare say you had a hand in that somewhere too 🙂 )

      But libraries help make writers. And readers. And possibilities.

  4. Our libraries here in Central Ohio in the US are vibrant and busy places. I believe of all the things we pay taxes for, libraries are one of the things that benefit everyone – young and old, rich and not so rich, internet connected and not connected, Americans by birth, immigrant Americans, and families of all shapes and sizes. When you go in my local library, you’ll see every one of those groups represented there, working, studying, reading, borrowing print books and audio books and periodicals, and toddlers happy during story time, all enjoying having that special place available.

    There are also things you wouldn’t see not too many years ago. It now has a designated space for homework, with computers used only by students after school hours. While the numbers aren’t large, there are children there every day, and often adults who have volunteered to tutor those wanting it. In other areas of the library, more and more you’ll see people helping others learn to speak English.

    A few years ago, funding was cut and consequently, the libraries operated with reduced hours. But during the next ballot cycle, voters gave more funds and hours were expanded again – proof that the majority of people understand the importance of our libraries.

    Obviously, I’m as passionate about this subject as you are, Annie! At the very least, those of us who care must use our libraries, and be vocal supporters 🙂 Long live our libraries!

    1. Your local library sounds wonderful, Robin! Mine also has computer stations for students and during term time they’re well used. And it’s so good to hear that voters have supported your libraries and that funds have been reinstated!

      I had to cut quite a few paragraphs when I wrote this blog (It was in grave danger of becoming a rant 🙂 ) and one of the things I didn’t say was that the library is such a good place for volunteers to help others with reading and language. Thank you for correcting that omission!

  5. I’m with you my dear. When I was growing up – we had The Library Box in our house. Each of us three kids were allowed 10 books per week and boy, howdy did we take advantage of it. We’d arrive – do a time check and then all agree to meet an hour later. Love the library. Love. It. xx

    1. Ten books a week, Annie! Fantastic. I’m beginning to feel almost robbed. We had four library tickets each when we were kids, and each could be exchanged for a book – so anthologies were much prized 🙂 Although I’ll admit that ‘The Lord of the Rings’ took me longer than a week to get through…

      But that’s it, isn’t it? I have my own copy at home now, but the first time I read that book was when I ‘discovered’ it on the shelves of the library. And I still remember the library volume as the one which held the most magic.

  6. Here, here, Annie. I couldn’t agree more. I love a library. I think they are as important today as ever. Someone that might never get a book somewhere else can find the love of reading in a library. One of the greatest joys of my life is seeing my first book in the Library of Congress. Libraries do matter.

    1. Oh wow, Susan. Seeing your own book in the Library of Congress must have been such a thrill!

      A love of reading is such a great gift, which lasts a lifetime, and as you so rightly say, there are some people who will never be able to find that anywhere else but the library.

    1. Yes it is, Fiona. I guess it’s a matter of paying things forward – I’ve benefitted from the library system, and now’s the time to make sure that it continues for future generations 🙂

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