Monday, 21 February 2011

Support Your Local Library

Ok, I’m about to get a bit deep and political again. Last time, it was because I was horrified by the idea that universities will soon no longer be equal in terms of the fees they can charge and, this time, it’s because I’m even more shocked by the public spending cuts which are threatening the existence of Britain’s libraries. In Suffolk alone, two-thirds of community libraries are currently under the threat of closure.

The Manic Street Preacher’s once famously sang, ‘Libraries gave us power.’ And they should know. They grew up in the small town of Blackwood, South Wales - an area well-known for its links to coal-mining. And, historically, these mining towns have a lot to teach us about how crucial libraries are in any truly democratic society. In the days when governmental measures to help the poor extended only about as far as shoving those who were starving into a workhouse, the provision of a decent education and access to books was never really high on the agenda. So the miners - who were receiving very low wages as it was - contributed to a communal fund in order that they could build their own Miners’ Institutes. These were basically privately funded libraries, and they gave the men who spent everyday underground doing a dangerous and dirty job the opportunity to access art and literature and also the legal knowledge and power to improve their position. It meant too that their children were provided with a room full of ideas of what they might want to do with their lives other than go underground.

During the late 19th century, the famous Scottish-American multi-millionaire Andrew Carnegie, did his bit for the people of Britain by coughing up loads of money to build hundreds of local libraries which would provide everyone, regardless of their background, with the opportunity to access books. His libraries are still being used today. Have a look at the one near you. If it looks old and it has the name Carnegie written over the door, it’s one of Andrew’s. I used to live around the corner from a lovely old Carnegie library in Canton, Cardiff. Andrew Carnegie said, ‘There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library.’ And if Canton Public Library is anything to go by, he was right. That place is full of all-sorts. Old people. Young people. Smart people. Scruffy people. Every time I ever went in, there were always all-sorts of people making all sorts of uses of it.

Because, it’s not just about borrowing books. It’s about access to the internet for those who haven’t got broadband at home. It’s about a quiet place to sit and type your CV or do your homework if you don’t have a room of your own. It’s about somewhere to read through the job sections of all the daily papers. It’s about providing people with the space they need and the information they need to pursue their dreams. And it’s also a safe, warm place to be.

Personally, I’d like to think some part of my council tax covers this. I think that’s all worth keeping. Because even though I no longer use libraries as often as I once did, a lot of people will always rely on them and I’d hate the thought that one day, that library might just not be there. Once they’re gone; we won’t get them back.

That was all deep. If you need some light relief, please click on this link which my friend Lloyd Robson sent to me the other day. He’s a mighty fine Cardiff poet and he’s also a man who likes muppets.

I LOVE this clip.

Hello to everyone who has emailed me or sent me a facebook or twitter message. You all make me smile.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the muppets :) your article: support your local library was wonderful. im a great fan. keep on writing!!!! :)