Library thing

A few years ago I wrote a post on another blog reminiscing about joining the library when I was a child and had already read everything on the book shelf we had in our classroom.

I was seven and the librarian informed my father I wasn’t eligible to join until I was ten. Fortunately, my teacher somehow persuaded them it was a good thing for a library to encourage children to read and I was given my first library card. Remember the little cardboard pocket into which went the ticket from the book being borrowed?

A library

For the love of your library

My love for the library was born the first time I stood in silent awe (in those days, of course, libraries were silent places – but why would anyone need to chat when faced with the delicious task of choosing books?) in front of the shelves of books, literally spoilt for choice. Going to the library became the highlight of my week. Over the years, the library gave me freedom – to inhabit other worlds, to go on adventures, to lose myself in the joy of reading. ‘Going to the library’ was always something I was allowed to do without having to answer twenty questions on the who with, what will you be doing, when will you back theme.

I was reminded of all this when on Rosie Amber’s blog the other day (she has an excellent book review site) she mentioned how infrequently she now uses her local library since she became a book reviewer. This sparked a lively conversation in the comments section, which got me thinking. In my blog post of a few years ago I confessed my library membership had lapsed but, alarmed by the threats to close libraries all over the place, I had re-joined.

The post received a good few comments and I think I possibly felt more than a little smug about my role in saving our library from closure. All of this, however, was before I fell in love with my Kindle. It was a gift, given by the DH after the nightmare of my running out of books on holiday abroad. This was never to be allowed to happen again. And it hasn’t.

On the other hand, reading Rosie Amber’s post made me realise I have not visited my local library for a considerable time. I’m not quite sure why this is so. I still love the feel of a print book in my hand and when I was Christmas shopping on Amazon, treated myself to a few new books – there is nothing quite like the smell of a new book! And if I’m doing research my first port of call tends to be Google.

People still use their local libraries but they borrow far fewer books than they did when I joined at the age of seven – but that WAS over 50 years ago. Interestingly, Scotland now has its first national strategy for public libraries which includes 18 recommendations which include ensuring wifi is available in every library, developing partnerships with advice services, job centres and enterprise groups and exploring alternative approaches for generating financial investment. I didn’t actually see the word ‘books’ mentioned.

Has the time come to stop being nostalgic about public libraries and what they have meant to us? Let the local authorities continue to reduce the opening hours to save money and change them into something else? Is it too late to go and find where I put my library card?

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46 thoughts on “Library thing

  1. Good article. I live in St. Louis and we have a very robust library system, but it’s amazing how many years you can drive by the library and forget what’s inside. Interestingly enough I still remember my library card number from when I was a kid (I’m in my 40’s). I think it was from filling out thousands of request forms for books and records that my local library didn’t carry, but the larger system did. Now that I have written a few books of my own I should consider taking them up there to see if they’d like a copy, but I admit I’m not brave enough–yet. Many of my acquaintances refuse to read anything on a tablet. I guess there are still patrons for the brick and mortar libraries. I’m thankful ours has a huge kids section for my two!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for dropping by and letting us about the library system in St Louis. Glad to know it has a huge kids’ section. If lots of them borrow books as children we might keep our libraries going.
      I think you should take your books into your library. I’m sure they’d be pleased to have a local author’s books on their shelves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m happy to report libraries are still going strong here in New England. 🙂 The one I work at is always bustling and even those who prefer eBooks still come in often and appreciate that they can download free books right through our catalog system. Another library nearby had troubles maybe fifteen years ago, but when they began charging one dollar to rent movies, they quickly made a lot of money. Enough so that now their movies are free again. The most popular items at my library are new releases (books & movies), large print, how-to books, audio CDs, lots of kid books, etc. We even loan out a big telescope!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad to hear libraries are going strong in New England. I love the sound of your library. And, wow, the telescope – that could be an idea for libraries where I live in Scotland as we are next to a Dark Sky Park with fantastic views of the stars (when it’s not raining).
      I like that you say your library is bustling. I’m sure for many users the human contact with staff and other users is an important part of the library experience.
      Thanks for dropping by and for commenting. Long live libraries!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I feel very strongly about libraries and I don’t think it’s nostalgia that makes people want them kept open. Libraries can be so important for those children (and lots of adults) who don’t have the money to buy books or to buy Kindles. I think it’s a shame there’s a feeling that libraries need to diversify to stay relevant and to attract people – that they somehow have to ‘earn’ the money that’s given to them. They shouldn’t have to constantly prove that they’re needed. They should be protected from cuts. It’s so very important that less privileged children have this resource, this access to books that can literally be life-changing. There is enough money (we are a very rich country – just needs a bit of redistribution) and maybe if a certain company that’s making a huge amount of money from selling books could contribute some actual tax money, that could be used to keep a few more libraries going. Sorry – got a bit political there!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You can be as political as you like, Alison. I certainly agree with you there are lots of people who can’t afford to buy kindles or new books and for them (and for those who need large print books as someone else mentioned) keeping libraries open is vital. There is more than one rich company getting out of paying taxes with, it seems, a fair bit of connivance from the government.
      My fear is that most of the people commenting identify reasons for keeping libraries open in ways the bean counters don’t measure. We talk about the transformative power of books and the need to make them accessible to all, whereas the bean counters look at measureable things like footfall and the number of borrows. If they are dropping they see that as justification for reducing the budget.
      Thanks so much for contributing to the discussion.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Chris, thanks for commenting. It would have been 1961 I joined my local library. I seem to remember only being allowed two books at a time when I first joined but maybe I’ve got that wrong because two books wouldn’t have lasted a week. Do you still visit your library on Cat Hill?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I live far away now but I often visit it in my head, if that makes sense.
        Sometimes had fines for late returns … 4p per book per week. But most of the librarians didn’t bother. Years later I sent them a copy of one of my books.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Stone stepped Ewart, ‘Little Women’ up there on the first floor, Quiet laden atmosphere, Maps papers microfiche, Family antiquities hidden in musty books, Sombre women at the desk, Preserving the air, Stamping clicking looking, Monumental building standing through time, Stone stepped Ewart. (memories of)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hello Mary. I joined the junior section of my library the day I came of age to be a member. Have been a regular ever since. I also find it helpful to borrow a book and if I like it, I’ll buy my own copy. This has happened many times. My library now has interesting talks, a job club, book group, activities for children, knitting group and more to come we have been told. It is a very important part of a community.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Emma, thanks for commenting. I sometimes buy a book I have enjoyed from the library and also if I’ve read an book I feel is a ‘keeper’ which I might re-read I buy the paperback. It certainly sounds from many comments people have left that some libraries are doing a lot to encourage people to make use of them, which is great.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad to see someone being straight about libraries. I think that libraries can do lots of wonderful things, but so many of them don’t do them. Much of the demand to ‘Keep our Libraries’ is just nostalgia. I used to visit regularly, but I just don’t now. The chances of a book I want being there are so low and the cost of ordering one specially (if it’s a novel) is a significant proportion of the Kindle price. The libraries spend money on best sellers that (leaving aside questions of literary merit) will be available for 50p in charity shops six months or a year down the line. (And charity shops actually throw out many paperbacks in good condition because people don’t want them even at giveaway prices.) We need libraries for large-print books (they’re expensive and read by the very people who can’t afford them), children’s books (because encouraging children to read is a Good Thing) and – oddly – graphic novels (because they don’t really work on Kindle and they’re expensive. Textbooks and reference books should be there too but why stock novels? (Remember that the classics are available electronically for free.)

    We need wi-fi and computers and a place where advice centres can meet and where people can find out about local issues and somewhere where real librarians provide human contact (Our local library now issues books through a self-service machine, which is pretty much the point where I stopped using it.)

    I talked to a librarian in our local library and he told me what the library service cost. I won’t quote it, because I keep thinking I must have got it wrong but, trust me, you can provide an awful lot of community resource for that money. In the seven years to 2014 (latest figures I could find on a quick search, sorry) the most borrowed author was James Patterson. So: better resources for schools, more centres for OAPs, a community centre or subsided reading for James Patterson fans?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Tom, thanks for dropping by. I certainly don’t want to see my money subsidising reading material for James Patterson fans! 🙂 They can pick up his books in the charity shop. He won’t miss the money and the charity gets some income. I think, though, we do still need libraries to have books (not only large print) on shelves because there are still lots of people who don’t have electronic reading devices for various reasons including financial.
      Pretty much all of what you suggest we need libraries to provide is included in the Scotland strategy document. What worries me is the gap between the aims and aspirations of the strategy and the will on the part of our local government to provide it. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a well considered comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Mary. I sure hope libraries don’t become extinct. Surprisingly, I know of quite a few avid readers who don’t prefer ebooks and are on a fixed budget who still take out books from the library. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Debby, I find it reassuring not everyone prefers ebooks. I did enjoy opening my parcel of ‘real’ books from Amazon in December – but I guess that didn’t help the library any! And when I read reviews of books I like the sound of I tend to buy the ebook. I will make more of an effort to support my local library because I’d hate to see its opening hours reduce – and worse, its budget to buy new books. Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree with what you’re saying Mary. I can’t imagine a world without libraries. I think they are important enough to keep at least for children’s sake. Sheesh, no libraries feels like no books, which brings to mind. Farenheit 451 . . . scary thought, 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  8. I think they have to diversify (and they are doing) and include other things. When I was a child I didn’t spend a lot of time in libraries although I read a lot of books. I used to exchange books with the other kids in the class and my grandmother loved to collect books. I love libraries and I hope they can evolve with the times…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Olga, thanks for dropping by and commenting. You mentioning swapping books with friends when you were a child made realise I don’t remember having a conversation about books with my friends. I have no idea what they read or if we enjoyed the same books! Apart from the library my only source of books was gifts from family members on birthdays and Christmas. I loved receiving book tokens so I could choose my own.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I cannot recall the last time I borrowed from the library–wait–probably two or three years ago. I’m a book hoarder and have enough of them at home to keep me busy for the next 20 years. Alas, I don’t have the time to read I wish I did. As well, my iPad Kindle has about 150, of which I’ve read a handful.
    Love our library. So many things going on there all the time. I go to a number of presentations, meetings, award evenings, but don’t borrow anymore. Hope our libraries never go by the wayside. I like paper books better because of the touch and smell, but if the only chance to read a book is on Kindle, I’ll be first in line. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I think it must be nearly two years since I last borrowed a book. Definitely going to try to get back into the habit of it. I used to pick books at random and really enjoyed finding new (to me) authors. I guess that happens a lot with ebooks, now. I have found many authors through book review sites and have loads on my Kindle and I do read quite a lot that way but, like you, I like the touch and smell of a paperback or hardback. And my attic is full of books because I inherited my dad’s collection and have not started to sort through them yet!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I admit I never use libraries as much as I used to when the children were young and I would pass by each afternoon on the way home from their school. Eight books each, so 24 in all, which would be regularly replaced. And no charges if any of them were late. I still pop in from time to time and am a member of a book club run by my librarian friend. in fact I have an overdue book sitting in my car right now. I love the way they have moved with the times and would hate them to disappear for ever. Long Live the Libraries!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope you didn’t have too far to walk with your 24 books – that’s quite a heavy load to carry!
      It certainly seems we’re all keen to see our libraries survive. I just fee a bit guilty for not using mine as often as I could. I will make amends next week.

      Like

  11. Great post. I used to spend hours in the library, first, because I had to when pursuing my college degree, and second, because I wanted to. It was a place to truly concentrate and have unlimited resources at your fingertips. The Internet has changed that dynamic, but I don’t think libraries have become obsolete. They are still places that I love to take my children and watch them explore, find a new book and take it home.
    Thanks for this great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Don, thanks for dropping in and commenting. I agree, libraries have not become obsolete but I worry that the ‘bean counters’ who decide on funding don’t look at the overall value to a community but look at footfall and numbers of books borrowed (things they can quantify!). I think we can hang on to our libraries for a while yet, but the emphasis may be on services other than books.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Mary Smith and four other authors had started a new blog.. Taking turns to post each Saturday.. Here is a post from Mary that will resonate with many of you. The local library. Our one in Southsea in Portsmouth has a cafe, a special children’s section where mums can bring babies and toddlers for story reading and play, computers, films for hire and also a council help desk where you can pay your bills and saves a trip to the centre of town.. it still has books and comfy chairs where you can read whilst enjoying a good cup of coffee.. makes sense to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by and comment, Sally. I know what a busy person you are. And thank you for reblogging the post – we all really appreciate the support.
      I like the idea of a cafe in the library. I know when I do go to my library I always meet someone I haven’t seen for a while and although it is no longer necessary to whisper in libraries, to have a place to sit and chat over a cuppa would be good.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I still use the local library constantly. I nearly always have my 8 book quota, and I reserve online from all over the region. I also use the local resources, hq for reference of books which are hard to find… And I’m working with them to get books into paperback copies so that they can keep their precious originals but others will be able to get new editions from library. And that’s all worth it as part of my council tax. Never mind that librarians are friendly people and it’s a welcoming environment. They helped me put up an exhibition about James leatham last year and this year I’m going to visit the library affiliated reading groups… I’ve held library cards for all kinds of subscription libraries too, and have a life membership of Aberdeen uni library, where rare books are hidden away. All this despite a very traumatising experience in the children’s library in Edinburgh in the 1970,s, which I wrote into a story ‘feart o’ the library’. Libraries are still great for books, also ebook download and online magazines. If you are on a very limited budget and love to read they are a lifeline. So don’t lets even think their time might be past! Viva libraries!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, Cally, I can feel the passion behind your words. Thanks so much for your comments in praise of libraries. They should hire you to encourage more people to use the services! I certainly don’t want to think their time might be over but my local library, while it is welcoming, there are computers, lots to encourage small children – there are fewer books. I read a letter int he local paper this week bemoaning the fact that since the council moved its offices into the library many of the reference books have disappeared.I hope they went to another library in the region…
      And where can we read your story ‘feart o’ the library’?

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I remember when I was 13, the school librarian allowed me to use the ‘senior school’ section of the library – which was a restricted section only allowed to the senior school (ages16 and 17). The first book I borrowed from there – the Hobbit.
    I love libraries and am always happy to support library events, but I too have used mine less since I started reading e-books.
    To me – libraries are about opening doors that might otherwise be closed to some people, due to cost or location or whatever. I think they can adopt modern technology and new practices – while still keeping this core value at their heart.
    And yes – you’re right. It’s time I dropped by my local library again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I wish I could remember the first book I took out. It was probably A Famous Five or a Secret Seven. I do have a vivid memory of reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals which I found laugh-out-loud funny. The trouble was, I was in bed with measles and the doctor told my mum I shouldn’t read because it could damage my eyes so I was reading it under the bed covers, trying to laugh very, very quietly.
      I agree it’s important to keep the core values of libraries while adapting to apeal to users in the modern world.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen, thanks for commenting. It was a VERY long time ago and I think those kinds of librarians are long gone. I never knew why they thought children shouldn’t be allowed to join the library before the age of ten. Maybe they were afraid we would scribble in the books!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I used to practically live in libraries. when I was a child, I walked to my local one in Nottingham every single day in the holidays, got out two books, read them, and returned them the next day. We didn’t have television and books played a huge part in my life. I supported our local library in Edinburgh until not too long ago, but I’m sad to say that between Kindle and Audible (for my audio books) I rarely go in there now. They revamped Morningside Library recently and it is much used (I gave a talk in there last year), but certainly for many other things than just lending out books.

    Nothing stays still for ever!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right, Jenny, everything changes. I see the list of reccommendations in the strategy includes something about enabling people to access their library online 24/7. I guess you’d be able to download audio books and ebooks on an app. I’ve attended a launch events in libraries and even an eBook launch at which the librarians provided several reading devices to be passed around the audience while the author read extracts. I couldn’t figure out how she was going to be paid for the borrows, though.
      We didn’t have television when I joined the library but we did by the time my sister was seven and she hardly read books as a child.

      Liked by 2 people

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