How did we get here?

Literary Legacies A very close friend once admonished me to never forget who we are and how we got here. Seems to me, that our modern world is being run by people who readily do exactly that. History, it seems has nothing to teach us. How often have you heard the words ‘lessons were learnt’ right after the repeat of a repeat of a tragedy. No that was not a typo but a deliberate repeat of ‘repeat’. My rant today is about libraries. Not the online repositories, some of which you may only access on subscription. I am referring to the place that is stacked with books for reading or studying, free to readers, regardless of socio-economic status.

Knowledge is power

Every progressive society going back into antiquity have had some means of preserving their collective knowledge and wisdom such that generations after generation could not only survive and advance but amass further knowledge and wisdom. When my friend was seeking to rehoused and her Housing Association kept chucking low standard properties her way, it was the humble local librarian who pointed out where they kept the reference books that showed what my friend was entitled to. Armed with the knowledge, she got what she was entitled to. Ah, but we have the Internet now, you say. Yes, we do, and it is a very useful tool. We can Google anything. How true, and we already mentioned online libraries.

Not just a place with books

However, today I plea the cause of the physical building, the institutions of libraries. Do we need them? Is there a need for a place where, employed or unemployed, you can access information, stories, dictionaries, law books, novels, children’s’ story books, atlases, and journals of all kinds? In modern times, libraries add PCs with Internet access attached to scanners and printers to their line-up of provisions. Do we need a friendly face, primed to assist us pin-point what we need and avoid wasting precious time down some rabbit-hole or being otherwise hopelessly diverted off topic? Is there any need for being able to visit a safe space and access information that we know has been fully edited, checked and verified so we may be assured of its provenance, authority, legality and, where required, unbiased?

Guardians of the Library

It came as no surprise to me to discover that libraries would be bullied out of existence when budget cuts were called for. The library bus that visited those small communities in the Styx where children, young people and the elderly that relied on it for their reading material were first to go, methinks. I am also guessing that small villages and towns were forced to merge their libraries into one ‘central’ library for readers, employed or unemployed, abled or disabled, young or not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be, mobile or immobile. Check it out in your area and you may find I have guessed correctly, or nearly so. Either way, we are losing our libraries bit by bit and must ask ourselves, who cares? We ought to, especially because we cannot assume that everyone has the means to access the Internet. We also cannot assume that everything is available on the Internet. I must also ask myself whether the decision-makers are readers at all. Would I be surprised to find that those persons closing the libraries have never used one? No, this would not surprise me because it would easily explain the ignorance of its value. As a young learner, I found libraries indispensable not only as a place where I could study, but it kept me warm and off the streets and out of trouble. Libraries were magical places to me because they were literary portals into diverse realms, they feed my fantasies and informed my ambitions while also answering the many questions raised by my developing mind.

Use it or . . .

So, I call on everyone to rescue your local library by first, visiting it to get acquainted at what is there. Then use the library or else those looking for any excuse to shut it down, will do so with impunity, saying it is not being used. Third, write to your local MP or councillor to make them aware that you are watching what they do to support your community and its right to have a local library service that is accessible to all and well-stocked and resourced to attract readers and ensure greater literacy in your city, town, village or hamlet.