Thursday, March 31, 2016

"Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting health services in a plague" - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

Once again, severe cuts to public services have hit the headlines and once again we find ourselves shaking our heads in disbelief that library services are again in the firing line, inevitably and eventually leading to closures where libraries have already been squeezed to death.

Several organisations (such as http://www.librarycampaign.com and http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk) have been actively campaigning to save our libraries from further cuts, and to try and make successive governments understand the importance of libraries and why - as the headline quote (not mine alas) states - cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting health services in a plague.

Most booky folk will already know that your children can become members of your local library as soon as they're born, and take away armfuls of lovely, lovely books. Libraries are vital for those on a low income who wouldn't have access to a wide variety of reading material in any other way.

Discovering whole new worlds through books (fiction or non fiction) is most definitely a key part of a  child's development and one of the best investments in terms of time that you as a parent can make.

When you read headlines about the constant testing and pushing that children are subjected to in the name of education, you have to wonder how education ministers systematically fail to make the link between reading (and learning) for pleasure and a child's educational development.

Without meaning to turn this into one long political rant, the current government seems to be worse than others at promoting the idea that education should become an extremely 'classist' and divisive area through the systematic degradation of 'learning for all' in favour of 'learning for those who can afford it'.

Because of this, libraries are like a lifeline when folk can't afford their own books, and won't get that vital first step up the ladder of a (hopefully) lifelong desire to further their knowledge.

Children are curious, children aren't just little memory banks waiting to have information stuffed into them by force to be retrieved through soulless testing at a later date. In my opinion, there's absolutely no point whatsoever in treating kids like that, certainly not at the age they're subjected to it currently.

We use our library to discover books we might have missed, books we wouldn't normally see and a whole host of non-fiction books that cover such a hugely wide range of diverse subjects that we couldn't possibly ever exhaust them. Until, that is, the fateful day that our own library buckles under the intense pressure of just trying to keep their heads above water and ends up the latest victim of cuts. Abingdon Library was (and still is) key to the way Charlotte's love of reading was nurtured, and of course key to how this blog came into being. Without it, we would have still bought books but being granted that wider choice and being able to choose armfuls really got Charlotte's reading journey off to a fantastic start.

There's a chilling passage in John Christopher's "The Guardians" where Rob Randall makes his way into the only library left in his home town. A dank, dusty and long forgotten building, books long fallen out of fashion. Rob goes to the library to borrow books to escape the drudgery of "The Conurb" - the vast cityscape he lives in. Escaping to worlds created by Alexander Dumas and Jules Verne, Rob's books become a symbol in the story on how we need that vital escapism as well as the opportunity to sate our thirst for knowledge. Will all libraries end up like the neglected building in that story? Not if we shout loud enough and add our voice to the campaigns.

Please take a moment to visit some of the links in this article and below, and please do comment and add your own library campaign links:

Library campaigns on 38 Degrees

Save Our Libraries tags on Twitter

Public Library Campaigns

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