So way back in the mists of the December posting meme, lost_spook
gave me libraries to post about! And it's taken me ages to post about them, because I love them A LOT and wanted to create a post that would do justice to that love. Which I'm not sure I have, but here we go, nevertheless.
I love them first as a library user, which I've been all my life. I remember using the Up Hatherly Library in Cheltenham as a child: being too young to really know how long three weeks was, so Library Day was a delightful surprise. Rummaging through the Tintin and Asterix books for one I hadn't read. Begging my mum to let me borrow just ONE extra book on her card ("one of my books is an audio book and that doesn't really count, so I'm ENTITLED to another book"). Haunting the SFF section as a teenager in the hope of finding Discworld books I hadn't read. Discovering the teenage section and with it Northern Lights
. Earnestly hunting for books on my recommended reading for GCSE/A-Level age groups lists. BOOKS EVERYWHERE. When I was at uni I used the library mostly for comics, despite not really being into comics then: it was Buffy and Angel tie-in stuff, plus the odd volume of Sandman, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I fell away from the library a bit when I moved to Bristol (though I still joined because obviously), but I've been using it very heavily for the last three years or so, at first because comics, but now because it's just so easy. I know my library card number and PIN off by heart, so if someone recommends a book or comic, I can hop straight over the catalogue and request or wishlist it. :D (Current stats: 17 items on loan, three available and four pending reservations, 53 things on my wishlist (...that's more than I thought there were), £2 owing.)
But I also love libraries as a concept: free access to information and entertainment for anyone who wants it. BEST. Also the public library is more or less the only public space left where you can go and not be expected to buy something, and I think that's a really valuable thing to preserve. It gets things away from the idea that everything has a price, and that if you can't afford to pay that price it's probably your own fault and you don't deserve to have it anyway. Not everything is about buying and selling, and worth isn't purely about whether something turns a profit.
I wrote my dissertation on computer access in public libraries; the attitude of the government in particular is increasingly that "it's all on the web", but there are still a great deal of people who have never used the internet, or don't have reliable access to it, or don't know how to use. And they're excluded from accessing information, and from a lot of government services, so it's vital to have somewhere they can go to get both access and help.
I think the rate of library closures is appalling, as is the fact that the government seems to think libraries can be run by volunteers, there are just so many things wrong with that I don't know where to start. The thing that worries me most with library closures and the handing of libraries over to volunteers is that once the service is gone, I don't know that we'll be able to get it back. I mean, projects for big shiny new central libraries will probably be able to get support, but reopening tiny libraries in deprived areas, or beefing up the mobile library service? Not glamorous enough.
...so that's all depressing. But let's end on a positive note, because I really love libraries! They're this institution whose whole ethos is based on "books for everyone!" and helping people, regardless of their ability to pay, and I think that's pretty amazing.This entry was originally posted at http://shinyjenni.dreamwidth.org/216910.html.