Tag Archives: library

I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Libraries are not obsolete, and they’re not just book houses

Following nationwide government cuts to libraries, author Abigail Tartellin has argued that ‘the price of libraries is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation’ in the Guardian. Libraries in Lincolnshire – and my own county of Shropshire (here’s an article about Telford and Wrekin, which is a different authority but still within the county; the same is true of other libraries under Shropshire council’s umbrella) are being closed or going volunteer-run. Some are being replaced by library buses visiting for as little as an hour a month, where once there was a library open forty or fifty hours a week.

But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. Yes, I condemn the government for these cuts. Libraries are important. But it seems a lot of commenters, discussing the Guardian article on reddit – including /r/books and /r/writing (!) – seem to think libraries are obsolete.

Stockholm public library - Wikimedia Commons
Stockholm public library. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Continue reading I can’t believe I have to say this, but: Libraries are not obsolete, and they’re not just book houses

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A Mystery Book from my local library

I popped into my local library this morning, and saw they had a Mystery Books shelf – books wrapped up in brown paper, their titles and covers obscured. This is an idea I’ve seen on the internet a few times, and I’m thrilled my local library has latched onto it – though they’ve gone even further than some of the versions I’ve seen, and have given no information at all, where other libraries have given the genre, the title, or one or two key points of what sorts of things to expect. So I picked up one of the books, and I plan on adding it to my A Year for More Reading list.

Before I unwrap it, I’ll describe it: it’s a hardback, maybe about the same size as most of my hardbacks, though not very thick. What I assume is the front (it’s got the sticker with the catalogue number on that side) has the cover jutting out further than the back, so it’s probably been well used. So let’s see what it is then.

I’ve unwrapped it to reveal The Bishop’s Tale by Margaret Frazer. On the cover is a picture of a wooden chalice and a walnut, standing on a surface covered with a green cloth; in the background is a wooden cross on a wall. Quotes on the back cover indicate it’s historical fiction, so it sounds like it might fit in nicely with the Cadfael books I was reading over Christmas and New Year.

Inside, the last dates it was borrowed are May 2013 and May 2012, so it’s not been a popular loan recently, though there are multiple loans for every year from 2006 to 2010, and the stamp suggests it’s mostly been housed in a different library in the county, in a town much smaller than my town. There’s a page listing books by the same author, twelve of them, so this isn’t the first in the series.

The blurb on the inside cover – mentioning death and mystery as investigated by a nun – suggest I might be right about it fitting right into the same vein as Cadfael.

Time to get reading.

Terry Deary and libraries

Last week Horrible Histories author Terry Deary revealed that he’s not a fan of libraries. He called them irrelevant and revealed that, had the readers borrowing his books in 2011/12 instead bought them, he’d have earned £180,000 compared to the £6,600 he actually earned from the borrows premium. He accuses them of reducing book sales from shops and being unnecessary because of public schools.

This is not an opinion I share. Or, indeed, one shared by children’s laureate Julia Donaldson, fantasy author Neil Gaiman, and, well, quite a lot of others. Deary even went on to defend his comments, claiming that they are only used by the middle classes and that he was talking about access to literature. He also claimed that “no-one is even reading what I’m saying” and accused commentators of spiteful remarks rather than reasoned debate. I saw plenty of reasoned debate in the links provided above and elsewhere, but maybe Mr Deary missed those.

Continue reading Terry Deary and libraries

Commentary: Jeanette Winterson calls for library expansion (BBC)

I’ve just come across this BBC article, Jeanette Winterson calls for library expansion, wherein the author, speaking at the Reading Agency Lecture at the British Library, called for an expansion to libraries, as well as introducing different facilities such as post offices and creches to libraries, funded by large companies accused of avoiding paying tax in the UK, such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks.

Continue reading Commentary: Jeanette Winterson calls for library expansion (BBC)

Poem: The Library is Mine

Socks on soft scarlet carpet between towering shelves.

The dark outside lends serenity to the silence within.

The library is mine,

All knowledge within my reach.

On silent feet I pass a solitary student

And mirror him at my own desk, hunched mutely.

Blank screens surround me, empty desks,

My own an island of study,

Scattered with books, notes, scribbles and stationery.

I pause in my scholarship,

Look up at my own reflection in the window,

Only cold blackness and the sleeping beyond.

Warm indoors, I wiggle my toes and turn the page,

And keep reading of ancient heroes,

Philosophers and scholars,

And what they believed and what they knew.

That which they left in legacy

For me to read.

The library is mine.