Today in the UK is National Libraries Day, a celebration of book-borrowing and shushing!
Libraries have had a tough time of it recently; once the only place to go locally for reference information and a refuge from the expense of book-buying, the rise of the Amazon cheapie, the internet and Google have rendered them obsolete places for many. But there are still large numbers of people who rely on libraries and the many services they offer. They hold story-sessions for children, rhyme times for babies, host discussion clubs and book groups for adults, offer computing and internet access, contain local public records, and have large numbers of books, audio books, CDs and DVDs to borrow – for free!
Little wonder then that when the coalition decided to cut library funding, precipitating a drop in library opening hours and in some cases even local closures, there was an outcry. Fortunately the noise made by local authorities about the threat to this important community hub has thrust libraries to the forefront of the national debate, making them an unlikely poster child for the effects of the age of austerity on ordinary people. And, dare we suggest, reminding people that they still exist. I think there is an element here of ‘you don’t know what you got till it’s gone’ and perhaps with libraries under threat people will make more of an effort to take advantage of what their local library has to offer. Always assuming it’s still open, of course…
Anyway, to mark National Libraries Day the children’s Laureate, the incomparable Julia Donaldson, has written a poem in celebration of the many things that libraries are to many different people. I reproduce it here on the assumption that having been published online it is intended to be shared. If not, I’m sure someone will be along to shush me shortly.
Everyone is welcome to walk through the door.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.
There are books in boxes and books on shelves.
They’re free for you to borrow, so help yourselves.
Come and meet your heroes, old and new,
From William the Conqueror to Winnie the Pooh.
You can look into the Mirror or read The Times,
Or bring along a toddler to chant some rhymes.
The librarian’s a friend who loves to lend,
So see if there’s a book that she can recommend.
Read that book, and if you’re bitten
You can borrow all the other ones the author’s written.
Are you into battles or biography?
Are you keen on gerbils or geography?
Gardening or ghosts? Sharks or science fiction?
There’s something here for everyone, whatever your addiction.
There are students revising, deep in concentration,
And school kids doing projects, finding inspiration.
Over in the corner there’s a table with seating,
So come along and join in the Book Club meeting.
Yes, come to the library! Browse and borrow,
And help make sure it’ll still be here tomorrow.
If you have a library near you – go and visit. See what they have to offer.