Life can be deliberately perverse sometimes. I used to use the local library a lot when I was much, much younger. Much much much much. Then I lived in Cambridge for a bit with access to one of the most comprehensive libraries in the world and never used it at all. After that, using the local library came in fits and starts for a bit and then for close to a decade I’ve hardly used it at all. Marriage, children, writing books and working a full time job will do horrendous things to a man’s precious reading time. Still, as a research tool, you can’t beat libraries. Want a book about Georgian history? Why not have six or seven and see which one gives you what you want. I’ve never once come away empty-handed, no matter what I’ve gone looking for.

And then someone flicksed a switch in number one son and out of nowhere he starts reading a whole book every few days. At his current rate of progress, he will have devoured all of Cressida Cowell in the space of a month and he’s going to go through about a hundred books over the course of the year – now, I realise there are some of you bloggers out there who will scoff at a mere hundred books, but dudes, without a library that’s a lot of trips of Waterstones and quite a lot of money. Not everyone can afford that, no matter how much they want to. Yes, there are second hand shops and charity shops and Bookstart (no, wait, maybe not for much longer), but libraries are for everyone and libraries are for free. Perhaps some children will never discover the joy of books because they simply don’t want to, because that’s not the way they’ve been raised, for whatever reason. No amount of saving libraries will change that, but I’m watching number one son wade through a new book every few days, I’m seeing how much he gets out of it, I’m seeing number two son’s interest in reading rocket as well (sibling rivalry – one of the world’s greatest motivators). Reading is surely the cornerstone of an open mind and probably many other things, and for some people, libraries are probably the only way to feed a habit like the one I’m seeing here.

Cuts to libraries seem inevitable, and no amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth is likely to change that – cuts to almost everything seem inevitable. Campaign and protest if you want – other people will give you better guidance than I will on how best to go about that (try the Bookseller’s campaign). But please, if you can, do something more direct. Find out how the library you use is likely to be affected and then see if there’s anything you can do to help. Facilities that are closed are far less likely to be recovered than those that are forced to run a reduced service. You’re all book-literate, mostly IT-literate, so we have the abilities needed to pitch in and keep at least a few things running. I’d like to hear your stories – where can we share our successes (if we have any)?

I’m looking for ideas and I’m looking for a way to share them. When I get anywhere I’ll let you know. In the mean time, how many authors out there would like their PLR income re-directed towards keeping libraries open for a while?


3 Responses to “Libraries”

  1. Anna Wildheit says:

    Many years ago the library system in my country was overhauled to make it more efficient and less costly, where modernisation (linking all libraries into one database) went hand in hand with rationalisation (abolishing libraries in small villages, merging multiple ones in cities), and some serious spending of money (libraries were usually found in drafty old money-pits). Most voices against were, for good reason, decrying the loss of libraries/access to all the public. And hence the “biblio-bus” was introduced: a (modded) bus is loaded up with books and visits those villages and districts that lost access (also schools, hospitals), and I think you can also order titles through the central online database.
    So in all, I believe my country has a better library system now, which explains why nobody is putting an axe to them in these financial difficult times (but then, that might be because there’s no government to decide just so) but we got it by putting money *in*… Perhaps knowledgeable people could make some sort of counteroffer to these cuts based on some research/comparison of how other countries deal with libraries?

  2. Stephen says:

    We have mobile libraries here too. What’s happening here is being left to local authorities, so it’s different in different places. What worries me here is that the facilities and services that are provided over and above the basics are what’s most likely to suffer, and they tend to be the things that help those who are most needy. We shall see.

    On another note, I’m writing The King’s Assassin at the moment and the aging teacher of swordplay is a certain Silvestre – I hope this will meet with yout approval :-)

  3. Anna Wildheit says:

    Well it’s certainly one of those things where you’ll want policy from higher up, so I guess you’ll need the big boys/industry lobbying. The Flemish (or Dutch community, which is different from the Flemish region in this fuzzball of a country) have developed a website for their collective libraries, where visitors can search (evidently) and check out special events, but also read (or listen) online, find a collection of press releases, follow blogs of libraries…

    And I can’t wait to read how he turns out! :D

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