National Libraries Day started a couple of years ago as a way to celebrate the amazing public service that is your local library. Public libraries have been under threat for years now; you may have seen my own local council in the news 5 years ago when a local campaign group won a High Court case declaring the council’s plans to cut library services by 43% (including several closures and elimination of the mobile library service) unlawful on equalities grounds. Sadly the case is not unique, and libraries around the country continue to be closed in spite of the fact that the government has a statutory duty to provide a library service. It’s hard to stay optimistic in the face of this, but National Libraries Day is a nice way to try even if it is only once a year.
As a librarian, supporting my colleagues is important to me. Though I don’t work for a public library service, I now work across several sites, one of which is also in fact a public library, so I have a much better idea of what kinds of challenges they face. And let me tell you, they work bloody hard to strike a balance and provide books, CDs, DVDs, job clubs, events for children, and much more on a shoestring budget, in spite of some people suggesting they no longer buy books. So on National Libraries Day I headed down to my local library to replace the card I’d lost (shame on me!), borrow some goodies, and support the service. It was brilliant to see a range of people in branch, browsing books, using the Internet, reading newspapers, and writing – so, you know, enriching their lives and learning stuff in a safe environment, exactly as libraries were intended to be used. Between Cheltenham library & things I’ve borrowed from work, I’ve got a pretty beautiful stack of library books now. 🙂
There are so many reasons to love libraries; I think Elise summed up many of them really well in her post a few years ago. Writers regularly write & publish love letters to libraries, too, and I’m not sure I can add anything new. But I will say, over and over again, that I have seen firsthand that libraries are temples of creativity, safe spaces for exploration, a refuge for those who need to escape from the world for a while, and much more. They deserve not just to be preserved, but praised and developed.
So in honor of National Libraries Day, I would ask you not just to talk about how brilliant libraries are, but to use them and use them consistently. Too often people seem to think of libraries first as a place to take their children. They’re not – there is so much there for you as well. Fiction or non-fiction, I guarantee you will find something to interest you at your local library. Libraries are a soft target for councils; their benefits are long-lasting and hard to quantify, but services look at numbers these days, so please do your bit to make sure they stay up!
I’ll just finish up by sharing a few of my favorite library websites/social media accounts, which I hope will give you a good feel for how vibrant the library community really is in spite of all the challenges:
- Geek the Library
- Daniel Boone Regional Library (my former public library, back when I was a uni student)
- Orkney Library
- Erik Kwakkel
- Bodleian Libraries