/ Parenting

Libraries – use them or lose them

Library shelf

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.

Rosie Price-Smith says:
27 August 2010

I’m off to Googlemap my local library and get down there to borrow endless books to save the pennies. Losing libraries would be a real shame, I remember spending countless hours in my local one as a child…

I agree, they’re a great place for kids. Since I’ve had my daughter I use my local library loads. It’s really friendly and a nice place just to hang out with a toddler if you’re at a loose end, plus they do toddler sessions a few times a week. But most importantly, it means she gets a constant supply of good books, which I’d never be able to afford to buy. I’d be genuinely gutted if my library shut down – and so would my daughter!

pickle says:
28 August 2010

I’m all for libraries – the are cheap and are good community centres, quite apart from being a fount of knowledge. If your computor breaks down you can nip down to the library and get all your e-mails opened there.
Keep them as they are.

mike s says:
31 August 2010

Our family use our local library quite a lot. My wife & daughter have always got their heads in a book and often we rent their Dvd’s too. I’m in fact both a member at both home and at work.
I much prefer to read a book in its real physical form although I admit I have downloaded Amazons kindle reader onto my Android phone and downloaded a selection of their classics which are free.
I guess the internet has killed their use a reference library for a section of casual enquirers who will now Google it rather than get book on it. However serious reference stuff they ought to still be used for. However libraries do offer full access to a lot of their reference material via the internet if you use yoour library card number to access it. Kent do I know.
Ours also offers a place for storytelling to children and other activities to get the children using the books.
My mum lost her local library a few years ago that was replaced with a mobile one with obviously much less stock to browse through.
Also a book on the beach can be left while you jump in with the kids. I’d not leave an expensive e-reader behind!

David Jenkins says:
15 September 2010

Thank you for further raising this issue and highlighting the value of public libraries!

I rely on mine extensively for CDs, DVDs and books – it saves me a fortune! The new City Library in Manchester is a great facility that makes finding and borrowing resources quick and easy.

Emma Davidson says:
15 September 2010

What’s not to love about libraries? They’re warm, safe, friendly spaces in which all kinds of people can access all kinds of resources (both physical and electronic) related to work, learning and leisure. Plus they’re run by dedicated, knowledgeable staff who work very hard to ensure that you get timely access to quality materials and information.

I use the local library but it isn’t that convenient. I have to go into town, which I can only do Saturdays, and that costs money in petrol and bus fares (I use the park and ride because it is more convenient but actually more expensive than parking in town (and using the bus for the whole journey is too time consuming).
If I see a review or article referring to an interesting book which I want to read now I buy it on Amazon and it turns up the next day.

Kiersten says:
21 September 2010

I have tried on a number of occasions to get into the routine of taking the kids to the library, but every time I’ve managed it, I’ve ended up holding onto the books far longer than I intended, and paying fines (which I should say they’ve been very lenient with). My ideal scenario would be a virtual library, where I could find the titles I actually want to read (not the ones that are left on the shelf), and have them delivered…. or maybe even have a system so I can post the books back (reliably)…. at the moment, it is just so much easier to order the books from Amazon than take two very active toddlers to the library.

Great post 🙂 Libraries are so important…..which is why we have set up a website to share stories about libraries & librarians: http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk. We’d love to hear from anyone who loves their library service 🙂

Lauren Smith says:
26 September 2010

Thanks for this Nick. A national campaign, Voices for the Library, was launched a couple of weeks ago, because of the serious threat to the UK public library service. It is a place for everyone who loves libraries to share their stories and experiences of the value of public libraries. Its aims are to share positive stories from public libraries and librarians, provide factual information about library usage in the UK and provide spokespeople for the media with a range of professional expertise. We will be lobbying parliament and are urging members of the public to write to their MPs and councillors asking them to defend their local library services in the forthcoming spending cuts.