Library closures: why cuts shouldn’t be presented as ‘either/or’

AT a time of painful and apparently limitless cost-cutting, the loss of several public libraries might seem easy compared to closing nursing homes and respite care for the disabled.

But we shouldn’t be looking at these cuts as an ‘either/or’ situation, as the politicians would wish us to. We should be finding ways to preserve it all.

I was looking through some photos of the family over the years and was struck by the fact that the few I have of Bloke have a theme – he’s reading books to the kids.

We visit various town libraries once a month or so. It’s not that we don’t have the luxury of books at home, but with four children, they’ve got a little dog-eared over the years. We can’t afford monthly visits to bookshops, but going to the library means they can keep having their passion for stories – ( Doug and Bill prefer non-fiction) – updated whenever they want, for free.

I must confess to being sometimes tardy with my timekeeping. Despite being able to renew books online, I forgot about some which had become buried in the mess of the boys’ room. By the time they were found, I thought I’d be facing fines like those at university: £10 a DAY for late return of equipment, 60p per HOUR for in-demand loans. I think my fine at the library was about £2.50 for books that were weeks late.

Libraries are not just places for at-home-mums to go with their offspring, students to catch up, or pensioners to use the internet. They are storage units for our history. Journalists may rely far too much on Google, but the real research is to be done in the local history sections, where centuries of newspapers exist on microfiche, old photographs and street records are lovingly indexed, and the minutia of our ancestors are preserved. For now.

So, Save-Our-Libraries, find a way. Stick in a coffee shop. Hold celebrity signings if you must.

And fine me more. I have no excuse.

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