With few of us using them regularly and the government looking to make major spending cuts, more and more libraries are under threat of closure. So how can we save the library?
If I told you about a place where you could get free books, cheap DVDs and CDs, all while your children did their homework in peace, you’d most likely look longingly into my eyes and ask me where you could find this utopia.
And I’d tell you, it’s just round the corner. It’s called a library. And it’s in grave danger.
This might sound obvious, but a new survey from the Department for Culture, Media and Sports reveals that 60% of us haven’t visited a library at all this year. It gets worse – only 12.8% visit once a month.
This lack of interest in one of the cornerstones of any community is incredibly worrying and, in these times of economic strife, makes no sense to me.
Why I love the library
Libraries can save you a fortune. I’ve just bought the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, which cost me £15 (and that was with an Amazon discount). My local library, which isn’t exactly enormous, has all three books for nothing.
CDs cost a pound each and there’s a great selection of DVDs at £1.75 for a week’s rental (compared to £3.75 a night at Blockbuster).
But more importantly, for many people, libraries provide vital services. Those without computers at home can access the internet. For pensioners, libraries are great meeting points and for those who may have small homes, they’re a great place to study in peace without getting harassed by your older brother (I should know).
Answering back to library sceptics
There are those who argue that technology has turned libraries into an anachronism. Just as mobiles kicked down phone boxes; chip and pin erased your signature and video killed the radio star (though try telling Chris Moyles that), so the internet will render libraries obsolete.
These people are missing the point. The internet hasn’t dispatched books and, in fact, can work in tandem with them as a vital learning tool.
There are others who say that public money should be spent on more immediate services such as public transport. But what is more valuable than knowledge and learning?
We need to defend our libraries by supporting them, visiting them and using them. And we need to lobby the government – at national and local level – to make sure these great institutions get the funding they deserve.
Otherwise, like video stores, milkmen and Woolworths, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.