Sunday, 20 March 2011

When sitting in circles was sitting in heaven

Uh oh. Another rant about the demise of British Libraries?


Just a thought which came to me the other day as I sat in Richmond Library paging through the latest New Scientist.

A small, curly-haired blonde girl, her shoulders barely reached my knee, skipped past flushed with excitement. "When, mom? When?"

It turned out she was impatient for the start of story-time.

On further investigation - standing up and looking over a bookcase - I saw a dozen or so kids sat in eager circles around a lady squatting on a small plastic chair.

'My' little girl joined the group and the lady started to read from a large yellow book opened on her lap.

I was transported fifty-cough years back in time: the little wooden horse had collected quite a lot of money and stowed it away inside his hollow body when suddenly ...

I remember being completely transported, the words read to me made wonderful images in my mind, evoked real emotions. More than that, the sentences started to imprint patterns on my brain. Patterns representing communication, speech, the written word. I was being taught the more formal structure of written English and loving every second of it. And I was sharing the experience. I was learning the value of shared experiences.

If Richmond Library closes, if thousands of libraries throughout the United Kingdom close, where will these children go? What are we taking away from them by not letting them share this joy?

A library is not just a building from which books are borrowed.


  1. The problem my local library (Valencia, in the Santa Clarita Valley, 30 miles north of Los Angeles) is facing is the wanton desire of the City Council to run it instead of the County of Los Angeles, therefore cutting us off from branches we should be connected to, because we're isolated enough already by mountain and freeway.

    Never mind that this is a City Council with members who do not own library cards. They just want to save money, damn the consequences to the people like me who actually use the libraries, who rely on them to get books that aren't readily found in the three libraries that make up the Santa Clarita system (also Canyon Country and Newhall). Without those County libraries, I would not have discovered the works of Quentin Crisp, nor such novels as "Lawnboy" by Paul Lisicky.

    Without those County libraries, I would not have published my first book or even been able to write it, because all the books I had checked out to do the research were not from any of those three libraries.

    The City Council plans to hand off operations to a northeastern United States corporate outfit called LSSI, designed to streamline library operations, and probably displace those wonderful, wonderful library people who have been there for so many years, who have been so gracious and patient with me and other voracious leaders, those who, instead of complaining about the amount of books I had on hold, wordlessly put them on a cart in the back and hauled it out whenever I was there.

    I know that once that cutoff from the County officially takes place, I'll still have a library. But it won't be the same. Exploration will not be as widespread for me as it had been. Those in power do not understand the true value of libraries. Or maybe they just don't want us to know.

  2. Voracious "readers", I meant. I'm still getting used to this whole reading thing. ;)

  3. Such a sad thought not to have a library. :(