Going around with a load of boys with whom I had little in common, playing football, or getting into fights held no appeal for me while I was growing up. My two favourite haunts were the library and, later, used book stores (where I’d buy and part exchange comics rather than books).
In those days, libraries boasted several features that are often lacking today:
a) They existed;
b) They had people skilled in helping you find the reference material you needed;
c) They didn’t have screaming kids running around while their parent stared at a phone screen.
I just wanted to talk about the first point for now. Since the age of austerity dawned some years ago, libraries have either disappeared or had their hours and staffing cut at an alarming rate in England.
I hadn’t realised quite how alarming until I attended the Educational Writer’s Awards recently. One of the speakers, Giles Watling , said that since 2010 around 500 libraries have been closed in England and Wales. That is truly appalling. It’s a way of denying thousands of people access to knowledge (not everything is on the internet), great literature (ditto), magazines and newspapers (which can be quite expensive) and, where libraries are run properly, a space where it is OK to be quiet and read in solitude.
The Society of Authors has a page listing things that people can do if they feel strongly that libraries should (a) not be closed and (b) be properly funded.