Saturday, 5 February 2011

Save our Libraries day!

Today, Saturday 5th February, was Save Libraries Day. And what a day it's been. All across the country, book-worms have been staging read-ins and protests at their nearest libraries.

Libraries are brilliant. Free, informative, and truly egalitarian, they provide an oasis of calm for the harassed city-dweller, and knowledge and information for the eternal students among us. A librarian friend told me about the range of services that are offered at her library: reading groups for people with learning disabilities, weight watchers groups, advice for job-seekers, internet access, writer's and gardener's groups, yoga - yes, yoga - and of course, the mainstay of the modern library - internet access, and inter-library loans.

Because they are generally frequented by bookish, unassuming types, it's easy to forget how important libraries are. And for councils looking to make savings, they can become an easy target for spending cuts. But sometimes our councils underestimate just how much people value their libraries.

This afternoon, a crowd of protestors gathered amongst the stacks in Leeds Library. Those who didn't have library cards gathered together the two necessary forms of ID to get one; and those of us who did, spent a pleasant couple of hours browsing the shelves, and then bringing our finds back to the floor for a good read. Protestors had their noses in books of all kinds. All over the floor lay novels by Solzhenitsyn, Plath, Carter, Auster, and Dostoevsky; and everywhere climbed piles of reference books covering subjects as diverse as knitting, psycho-geography, radical politics, and experimental physics. In our quest to stamp out our full allowances of books, no stone went unturned, and no corner of the library unplundered .... not even the Mills & Boon section at the back.

For a couple of hours, the library floor resonated with the sounds of laughter and pages turning. It was heartwarming to see that there are so many who care so passionately about library services that they will spend literally hours on a Saturday afternoon sitting on a cold floor, staging a sit-in.

I will leave you with a photo of Jess of The Travelling Suitcase library. Amongst the Stephen Kings and M Knight Shymalans, she found a real horror story.

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