I’d like to talk about libraries.
Bear with me, it’s important. (Frog’s Northern Granny says so and you don’t want to mess with her – she’s a librarian).
Now, unless you’ve been abroad for a year or living in a hole somewhere, you might have gathered there’s been a bit of a fuss about libraries recently. Back in February, there were a load of very civilized “Read-ins”, where people went and sat in their local library reading books for a day. While it all sounds rather relaxing, they were actually making a very important point: libraries are under threat and we need to start showing we care about them.
The thing is, it doesn’t end there.
You might not know about it, but the Government’s reviewing a raft of duties that local authorities legally have to stick to. The Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964 is one of them. This is the law that says local authorities have to provide a comprehensive and efficient public library service. In plain English, it means the likes of you and me get free access to decent books as well as all the other things that libraries do nowadays.
For mums like me, I’m talking about rhyme times and story sessions for our babies. Not the expensive ones you have to pay for, but the free ones, which are accessible to everyone.
When I was tiny, my mum and I used to go to the library a lot. We would sit and read a whole range of books for an entire afternoon. It was a treat, something I looked forward to and got excited about. It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford to buy our own books, we had a house full of them. But in the library, there were whole shelves of new stories. Ones I’d never read before. And if I was really lucky, there would be a story time, where an old woman would read to us and we’d have a little sing-song. As a three year old, this was my version of a Take That concert.
Then I grew up and went to university. And the library once again became my friend. When I was back home and needed to research an essay or do some background reading, I knew I could pop along to the local library and pick up a book. It was a given. Easy.
And then I became a mum. Once again I turned to the library. Not to read up on anything this time, but to have a reason to get out of the house. I took my baby to rhyme time sessions and sing-along time. All free. Unlike the many other activities we do together.
But it looks like history won’t be repeated. When my daughter turns three, I won’t get to take her to the library. We won’t get to find a quiet corner and read some new books. She won’t get a mini Take That concert in the form of a sing-along session. Because the libraries are going.
Unless we do something about it.
Remember The Public Libraries and Museums Act I was banging on about just now? This is the law that says councils have a legal duty to provide library services. Well the Government wants to find out if we think this still stands. Should councils still have to provide libraries? Are they needed, or are they a “burden” (their words, not mine).
If you think this doesn’t affect you, think again. False Economy recently published a map showing all the cuts and proposed cuts to libraries around the UK. The chances are you’ll see a red mark where you live.
So please make Frog’s Northern Granny proud. Fill in that form and tell them you want to keep the libraries. For your children. And your children’s children. And your children’s children’s children. (I could go on, but you get where I’m going with this).