Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Do you use your local library ?

There is a great furore up here in North Yorkshire because there is a move afoot by 'the authorities' to shut some of our local libraries to save money in this time of so-called austerity. The library in our little town is one of the ones scheduled to be closed down, or to be run by volunteers and at present library users are canvassing households in an effort to get up a petition.

I can't get in a high dudgeon about it, mainly because I only use it infrequently. It is a small library, in the corner of our large municipal building. It has about half a dozen computers, a few reference shelves and then a stock of books for borrowing. The books don't change all that often and the consequence is that I have read most of the authors I like and find only familiar books on the shelves on the whole. Yes, I know I could try new authors, I could read book reviews and order books - and they would come - eventually. I have an old friend of 89 who does precisely this and who is very upset at the thought of closure as the library is her lifeline.

As for the computers - I have friends who use these; friends who could not afford to pay the cost of broadband each month but who can easily afford the £10 a year it costs at the library.

The population up here in the Dales must have quite an old average age because many folk retire up here. And surely it is these people who use libraries most. If our library closes then the nearest one will be in Richmond, which is only about seven miles away but seven miles is a long way if you are without a car - and the library is quite a walk from the bus stop (we have a good bus service, which is free for the over 65's) - and an even longer walk if you are carrying a bag of heavy books.

This morning there are letters in the Times about Library closures. They are interesting. One speaks of Harrogate library as having a refit last year at the cost of £3.4 million. Harrogate is in our area. The library there is open seven days a week I understand. The letter complains about the sidelining of the reference sections and the way the library has been turned into a 'community centre'.
My complaints would be that that £3.4 million would have gone a long way to keeping little local libraries open.

Another letter from a 77 year old says that if her mobile library (which calls once every three weeks) is withdrawn she is going to be left with a 'threadbare diet of magazines'.

But there is another side to the argument. Another letter speaks of the huge range of books which are sold very cheaply in charity shops - our local charity shop always has a vast quantity and it is good to take in a few one has read and exchange them for a few more. And a letter from the Chief Executive Officer of Libraries argues that they must become Community spaces and that there must be local consultation about every closure. A meeting takes places about our library later this month - its outcome will be interesting.

On a completely different subject - the great actor, Pete Postlethwaite, died yesterday at the relatively young age of his early sixties. In his obituary was this lovely story:
Pete was playing Coriolanus in the Shakespeare play at the Everyman theatre. As he was making the famous speech to the crowd, two girls in the front row began to giggle. Without hesitation Pete carried on with the speech, left the stage, walked up to the two girls and delivered the rest of the speech directly to their faces. I'll bet they were quiet after that. And the story sparks off today's aros:

Great actors are remembered for the great roles they play. Keep warm - more snow here.

22 comments:

mrsnesbitt said...

We have a mobile library which visits every Monday. A great time to meet up with neighbours. It is a great service and we are just hoping it isn't withdrawn when the cuts happen.

izzy said...

I have two nice libraries nearby- really 3 but I haven't been in that one. I love libraries. They give you info and ideas
access to books- hands on... cut backs
are limiting hours. Very sad.

jeanette from everton terrace said...

I am an avid user of our library and they had a bit of an overhaul last year. To keep the smaller branches open (like the one I use) they drastically reduced the hours - opening up later some days and closing early some days, closed on Sunday and Monday now. Happy they stayed open. Hope they can find a way to keep yours open.

Heather said...

I feel slightly guilty about library closures as I don't use ours often for similar reasons to those you mention. Our library has just had a revamp so maybe we are safe, but I do feel for those who rely on theirs. Rural communities need a library more than others. How sad to lose Pete Postlethwaite but he has left a fine legacy.

steven said...

weaver just two days ago i renewed my library card for the first time in fifteen years! the library in our town is an amazing place with excellent staff and very current books, magazines, newspapers, films, audiobooks - you name it. i don't know why i overlooked it for all that time. i am not a ploitician but i do think that human scale services like libraries are a necessity and not something that can even be thought of as optional. steven

annell said...

I confess I do not use the little library we have. I think maybe ours is a little better than you have, but not much. But I would hate for it to close.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think libraries are essential, whether in a building or mobile, but they do need to offer a range of services and events so that people are encouraged to use them. I rarely go to the library, the local charity shops have a much better range of books...

Pondside said...

What a backwards step a library closing would be. The library has been one of the most important places to me, wherever we've lived, throughout my life - no hyperbole here at all. As I sit at the computer, Christmas books stacked to one side, the other side has a stack of five decorating books, three magazines and two DVDs, all from yesterday's visit. I'm there once a week, and from the look of the crowds, it is a very popular place. I hope that local politicians give up such a terrible idea.

Eryl said...

I haven't visited my local library for years, I'd read everything it had to offer (I skipped the Romances) within the first two weeks of living here, it's that small. Also it keeps very odd hours and I was always having to pay late fines because often I went to return the books and found the place shut.

That said I would hate for it to close because there are other people than me here and lots of them rely on the library. If it is threatened I will do what I can (sign petitions, protest, march, write to my local MP), to keep it open. Not just for altruistic reasons though, currently I'm lucky because I can travel to Edinburgh (60 odd miles) for the big posh libraries which I love, I don't suppose that will always be so.

Very sad to hear about Pete Postlethwaite, he brightened up everything he appeared in.

MorningAJ said...

I'm one of those guilty people who do everything online these days and haven't set foot in our local library for nearly three years.

I used it extensively when I first moved in, to research local history, but not regularly since.

Nice aros by the way. Pete Postlethwaite will be sadly missed.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Libraries are the last thing that should be cut. So important, in my opinion. Ours is within walking distance, which is a wonderful thing. The Songwriter and I walk the dogs there and take turns sitting outside with them whilst the other one browses the bookshelves. It now closes an hour earlier than it used to, but appears safe otherwise. I'm happy to say, it is a well-used library.

Hildred and Charles said...

Yes, I use our local library constantly, and also the eresources for ebooks and audio books. We are part of a larger extended library, - the Okanagan Regional Library - with headquarters in Kelowna and numerous branches throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen. I would be lost without it.

The Bishop is coming on Saturday with thoughts of closing down our small church (I think) and that is upsetting too, - to those who care.

Dartford Warbler said...

I have been a local library user at various times in my life and would hate our nearest one to close. I sometimes borrow audio tapes to listen to in the car, and we recently discovered a wealth of local history archives which are helping with some family history research.

I don`t often borrow books from the library. I do love to own and keep books which mean a lot to me. The house is groaning with bookshelves and books are good friends to have around.

A mobile library comes to our village and would be greatly missed, especially by people without their own transport into town. The local bus service was withdrawn last year, but that`s another story....

Titus said...

Every Friday night for us, Weaver, at the small one in Thornhill. Initially only started going for the two smallest children, but as they browse happily by themselves now I too have started browsing and picked up some interesting books I'd never have found otherwise.
And the Ewart in Dumfries has a fabulous poetry section.
As always, it's the way society has changed that is killing the libraries. People generally earn more, books are more affordable and there are so many other ways of spending our leisure hours. I do love a really good library, though.

thousandflower said...

I use our local library all the time. I would be horrified if it closed. I read things from the shelves and Inter Library Loan lots and lots of things they don't have. Our has its catalogue online so I can request a hold on a book I want, renew books I have, and ILL from my home computer. I worked as a librarian for many year. I love libraries.

thousandflower said...

I use our local library all the time. I would be horrified if it closed. I read things from the shelves and Inter Library Loan lots and lots of things they don't have. Our has its catalogue online so I can request a hold on a book I want, renew books I have, and ILL from my home computer. I worked as a librarian for many year. I love libraries.

John Gray jgsheffield@hotmail.com said...

when I lived in sheffield i USED TO love going to the art deco library on a regular basis

I used to enjoy just browsing and never too a book out.... the reference library was a joy

Tess Kincaid said...

I adore my local library. I couldn't live without it! It is part of the award winning Columbus Metropolitan Library system. I can check to see if they have the material I want online, then have it delivered to my branch. They email me when it arrives. I am so spoiled.

Tess Kincaid said...

...I use it so much, I have my nine digit library card number memorized!

Bovey Belle said...

When our children were young we were stalwarts of our town library, and I have turned to its excellent Reference Library many times. I also use the travelling library which comes round every month, right to the front gate. I would certainly miss that arriving, although the stock of books is only refreshed once a year and the poor (librarian?) chap who drives the bus has no say in what is given to him. I think it's a case of "any excuse" to prune what we get for our ever-increasing Council Tax (perish the thought that those in high office might to have their golden handshake lessened).

I have always been an admirer of actor Pete Postlethwaite and will mourn his loss. Pretty he wasn't but WHAT an actor.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It seems that by far the vast majority of us do use the local library. Not sure what that means though as surely the people who blog are those who really enjoy communicating, so we are not really a comprehensive cross section of the community are we?
But it is always sad when something closes down - Hildred talks of her local church closing - I think ours is only hanging on by the skin of its teeth.

Gwilym Williams said...

I use the Vienna city library 10 or 12 times a year. They have a good selection of books in English which they inherited from the British Council Library which closed its doors 3 or 4 years ago.