“UK Libraries Are Closing at an Astonishing Rate”
“Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close”
You might have seen these headlines in the news this week. The nostalgic, book loving part of me is saddened by this news. The more modern, kindle owning part of me is not surprised by this news. The need for access to free books for a set time period vastly decreases as books become cheaper to own and easier to store on devices such as the Kindle.
Alongside this news the BBC ran an article entitled; Stories from the bookshelves: What does your library mean to you?. That was an easy one for me to answer.
My love of books is equal in all forms; digital, hardback, and paperback. However I have always dreamed of having a room in my house shelved from floor to ceiling, crammed full of books; my very own library. As a child and young adult, the library was heaven to me. A complete treasure chest of stories just waiting to be read. I would walk into a library and feel like the characters were calling me, willing me to pick the book that contained them and let them tell me their story. I was filled with energy, and could spend hours (if allowed) trawling all the book titles, shelf after shelf. Then the challenge of shortlisting the 10 I could have that fortnight; man that was hard!
I used to visit two libraries, both very different, but both just as magical to me.
The first was my local library; Central Library in Scunthorpe. A modern building, although not the most charming from the outside. A windowless prison for literature, I used to think. It was my job to set them free! I spent hours and hours here, whenever I could. I loved being surrounded by the books, the smell of them and the excitement of what adventures I would unveil when I opened the front cover. There was honestly nowhere I was happier when I was young.
I used to spend a week or two every year visiting my grandparents and cousins, in the summer holidays, in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. Here I was lucky enough to visit the library too. It was a ten minute walk across a playing field from my Nan and Grandad’s house. My cousins and I would walk there with my Grandad.
Originally a house called The Rydings built in 1841 by John Brooke, a local mill owner. It was converted into a free library in 1898, for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, and has been ever since. We would sit in the bay window reading books while Grandad walked to dog in the library grounds. My cousin takes her own boys there today.
However not all children will be this lucky, as more and more libraries close. Not just a home for books that everyone could access but quite often, libraries are at the heart of a community, providing a meeting point for people, a space to hold events. If there is not demand for a pure library service, and other venues provide the community meeting point, then their closure is inevitable. In a society where technology is so accessible, and these days children can use a touch screen phone, or tablet before they even begin to learn how to read, it is understandable why books are becoming more and more obsolete.
On the plus side, I found some communities that still value a good book and the spirit of sharing such a thing. This is Blagdon library!
Book lovers and library fans, there is hope yet. Perhaps the classic community library is a dying breed but this converted telephone box really depicts a true passion for literature that cannot be suppressed!