Shelved

cut paper bicycles

Chatting to our local archivist the other day (nothing to do with any archiving: she has a laser paper cutting machine at home and had made some fantastic little paper bicycles for the Bigtown Cycle campaign. Suddenly a whole new world of stationery possibilities opens up …) I was shocked – shocked! – to learn that Bigtown library now has no actual librarians. The staff at the counter who stamp your books are there to do all sorts of other council business as well, which I suppose could bring a wider range of clientele into the library, but you wonder who is doing all the other vital library stuff, from ordering books to setting up reading schemes.

bookshelves

This is why I have a special affection for books which disappear again after 3 weeks

After I had physically picked up my jaw and composed myself, I wondered what could be done about this. As a voracious reader in my childhood (at one point the school library disallowed me from returning books on the same day I had borrowed them) libraries were a lifesaver for me, even with their pettifogging rules about keeping a book for at least 24 hours before you returned it. As an adult with a non-infinite amount of shelf space, they continue to be a useful way of feeding my book habit without filling my house, and as an author (however unprolific), the Public Lending Right payment I get every year is a small but happy reminder that somewhere out there, people are still reading my book. So it’s safe to say, I was keen to support the library from any more cuts.

‘Footfall,’ my archivist contact said. ‘That’s all they look at. So keep using the library if you want to keep it open.’

Well, as activism goes, that’s something I can utterly get behind. It will be a terrible sacrifice but tomorrow I will have to get myself down to the library and borrow some books, take them home, read them, and then swap them for some more. All for free – and anyone and everyone can do it too.

Put that way, it’s amazing such a civilised thing has been allowed to exist for as long as it has. Perhaps you’d better get down there and be counted at your own library while stocks last.

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4 Responses to Shelved

  1. Flighty says:

    I’ve been regularly, generally weekly, using my local libraries for about 65 years. My books are no longer stamped, and borrowing/returning is all self service . Happy reading. xx

  2. Charles says:

    I used to read a book a day at prep school. The library was open after lunch for 30 minutes so you had to be quick, I read everywhere and still do. I joined the local library in Somerset when I arrived and it’s very good.

  3. john gibson says:

    I can still remember going to the library as a small boy and being amazed that they would let you take books away without any payment. On another note there is talk in Oxford about self service and people letting themselves in when its out of hours.
    John

  4. disgruntled says:

    @Flighty – I miss the little pockets they put the tickets in! I loved the whole logic of the lending system…
    @Charles – one of the great things about moving to a new area is a whole new library with different books in.
    @John – hmm, midnight feasts in the library, anyone?

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