Earlier last month, I happened to stumble upon a fantastic - and frankly rather stunning - essay in pictures, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. The topic of discussion? Why libraries are fundamental to our future, the unequivocal importance of reading, and the necessity of libraries and librarians in the lives of our children.
Then Libraries Week came along, which really got me thinking: when was the last time I stepped foot in a library? As the tumbleweed mockingly rolled across my mind, I was ashamed to realise that I couldn’t actually remember.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. Instead, I’ve been hitting up the electronic shelves of Amazon in order to build up a to-be-read mountain; a literary Ben Nevis in the corner of my room that’s constantly getting in the way and currently threatening to topple over. Popping down to the library and borrowing these self-same books, however, is something that never even crossed my mind - and this way of thinking is something that I believe we all need to change.
“A library is a place of safety, a haven from the world.” - Neil Gaiman
It’s an irrefutable fact that library closures have been sweeping their way across the country over the past few years. With alternative ways of accessing books, this might not seem like such a dire thing, but the truth is that the epidemic of library closures is something that we need to halt.
You see, libraries do not just provide us with the opportunity to access books; they provide us with a space in which we can completely give ourselves over to them. In fact, they encourage this - and this is something we simply can’t take away from our children.
Fostering a love of reading for pleasure in the younger generations is key; a literate child is an informed child, and an informed child is one who grows up into the kind of well-rounded, educated, competent adult that our society relies on. What better way to develop this literacy than through encouraging our children to read, and what better way to facilitate reading for pleasure than a library?
“Without libraries, what have we? We have no past and no future.” - Ray Bradbury
Libraries are places of learning - places of life - so why on earth does the world seem so intent on getting rid of them? They push us to expand the limits of our own knowledge, to explore new worlds, to become better people - and this isn’t simply through the texts on offer.
Books aside, libraries are places of unity, equality, liberty; the social importance of a library is real. Whether it’s attending a formal workshop or simply seeking the help of a librarian, libraries bring people and communities together in a way that no other location can claim to do. And not only are they physical spaces in which a community can come together, helping to both combat loneliness and promote inclusivity, but they are also mental spaces that support mental health and well-being.
In fact, according to a study carried out by the Arts Council England, there is a very real correlation between library attendance and quality of life. They go on to suggest that “being a regular library user is estimated to save the NHS just under £30m a year”; with statistics like that, the rapid closure of so many libraries seems like an utterly nonsense move.
“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” - Albert Einstein
During my time at university, I spent the first few weeks completely averse to visiting the library; I didn’t want to be ‘one of those kids’, as I’d foolishly come to view them. As time went by, however, I slowly realised the ridiculousness - and the pure inaccuracy - of such an attitude. By the end of my first month, after spending days feeling completely lost and terrified, I made my way to the library - and I’ve never looked back.
The library is the place I turn to when I don’t know what to do next, and I always come out of there with a plan. In short, libraries have played a huge part in not just my studies, but so too in figuring out every other part of my life.
Got something to say about your own library experiences? Let us know and you could feature on the Bedrock blog for International School Library Month 2018. The theme for ISLM 2018 is “Why I Love My School Library" - get in touch!