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Another letter from a 77 year old says that if her mobile library (which calls once every three weeks) is withdrawn she is going to be left with a 'threadbare diet of magazines'.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