Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Library thoughts

Last Friday was very hectic, but thankfully I had time for a quick visit to the opening ceremony at the newly extended and much-revamped library in Lymm. There is also a citizens’ advice bureau on site, and even though the mayor of Warrington Borough Council and other dignitaries present must have been exhausted after a night spent waiting for the local election results (a hung council was the outcome) there was no disguising the delight across the political divide at the realisation of a long-held dream.

Is there good reason to be excited about the improvements made to a village library? I think so. For instance, there has been intelligent investment in technology. Fiona Barry, the library service manager, gave me this example: ‘You can now listen to a selection of stories on MP3 player format. The library includes batteries, so all you need to provide is your headphones. These pocket sized players make listening even easier, especially if you are jogging, decorating or ironing. There are books available for adults and children, and the cost is just £1.20 for 3 weeks' loan, the same as CD or cassette format - with no charge made to children and teenagers."

The library now hosts a couple of readers’ groups; I’ve talked with both of them in recent weeks and found their enthusiasm for fiction very heartening. And, all being well, the Victorian murder mystery that I staged a fortnight ago will be the first of many events.

I’ve been a library member since I was a child and I’m a passionate believer in the value of libraries of all kinds – so long as they are staffed by book enthusiasts, and properly funded. It does seem to me that some of the social problems that we face in this country can be addressed, at least in part, by an increased emphasis on community cohesion, and on the things that bring us together rather than those that divide us. Libraries (rather like the post office network, which is, depressingly, been scaled down at this very moment) have much to offer as places for people of all backgrounds to meet, as well as to share common interests – above all, of course, literature. It seems to me to be a very good idea to have an advice bureau in the same premises – a place with such valuable facilities can prove a magnet to many people who gave up the book-borrowing habit long ago.

My hope is that the achievements of the library service in my neck of the woods will be replicated elsewhere, and that instead of talk about cutbacks, the focus for the future will be on an expanding and flourishing network of libraries nationwide that contributes to a genuine improvement in the quality of life for all sectors of society. It could happen - couldn't it?


wormauld said...

I so agree with you. we have a very underfunded library but that's Surrey for you. I also belong to Crawley and that's a hive of activity and all ages races in the comminity seem to gather there. Thanks to random jottings I've just read your complete oevre and really liked them especially the Devline's. He has such a lovely sense of humour.

Martin Edwards said...

I'm delighted you like Harry, and the humour (which will be the subject of a future post.) The Lakes books are developing more of a sense of humour after a slightly melancholy start!