Wednesday, 23 March 2011
I love libraries
I love libraries. There you are! I have nailed my colours to the pole at the start of this piece. I am not the only one. Stephen Fry, himself something of an institution, put the British Library system at the top of things of institutions to be venerated. I have used libraries for all my life and it comes as something as a shock to discover that others do not share my admiration. The first library I used as a child, Fenton is to be closed which is, for me, sad because it was through the libraries that I was introduced to books.
It was at that the local Library that I became aware of the world outside. I am afraid I am against the trend in modern libraries for relevance as far as a child’s view was concerned. When I went to the local Library I wanted escape and I was first drawn to the histories of the Ancient World.Then there were the legends of the Greeks and Romans. I knew at one point all the Labours of Hercules.
Later it was "Treasure Island" and as a boy it was the character of Jim Hawkins that I readily identified with. Then HG Wells, Jules Verne and CS Forrester’s "Hornblower" series followed by the time I got to 11.I was well on my way.
The buildings helped as well. They are magical places where the sense of earnestness and learning permeates the very brick work. These sentiments certainly apply to our own Nicholson Institute whose dome has graced the town skyline for over 130 years.
But the whole tradition is under threat as a consequence of the cuts. Libraries represent values which seem to have fallen out of favour that society aspires to better things for its people.
They are a leveller- no person would be unable to access public knowledge because of their poverty. The Victorians established a service imbued with a sense of publics duty and private philanthropy as in the case of the Nicholson. This role has not shrunk today where the need to access information has become the more crucial. Even in the age of the Ipad.