Thursday, 24 October 2013

Use your local library!

As local authorities throughout the country look to make financial savings library services are under greater threat than ever and to those of us who love our libraries that's a worrying prospect.

The first free public libraries were opened in Britain in the mid 19th century following the Public Libraries Act of 1850 that allowed councils to charge a halfpenny in the pound towards their building and upkeep - assuming a referendum showed that two thirds of tax-payers wanted a library. (Incidentally the movement was opposed in parliament by the Conservatives who feared the social implications of making literature widely available to the lower classes.) Even though this rate was soon increased to one penny it wasn't enough and growth of the public library system relied extensively on generous benefactors. 

It wasn't until the Public Libraries Act of 1919 that abolished the penny tax and the need for a referendum as well as moving responsibility away from local to county councils that the free library service that we all know and love became a national institution - and one of which we can rightly be proud.

I mean what's not to love about a huge room full of books that you can take away and read for free?! And, of course, music and films now too. Oh and computers. And upstairs in the Central library they have all the non-fiction and reference books, an invaluable aid to authors of many genres. And that's not to mention the reading groups, rhyme times, knitting club and book groups that gather there.

I haven't heard anything about library services in Swansea being cut - yet - but it was reported only last month that councillors in Neath & Port Talbot are reviewing services and considering the closure of 7 or 8 local libraries.

I know the pot is only so big and hard decisions have to be made but I would encourage everyone, especially writers - after all, without us libraries wouldn't exist - to make use of your local library as much as you can. Borrow books and use the library's facilities. Let the authorities see how many people use the library. Book rooms for meetings, give them an income. Hang on to overdue books so you have to pay a fine ... oh, wait, I already do that.

Yesterday evening a group of Swansea writers met in the Central Library. We have all signed up for NaNoWriMo and were keen to meet face to face - as opposed to via the internet - other crazy fools who've decided to dedicate a huge chunk of their lives in one of the busiest months of the year to writing 50,000 words of a novel. 
Here we are: (from left) me, Ann (arranger of the meet, sci-fi and local history writer), Jane (erotica), Izzy (first-time NaNoner) and Will (first timer and fantasy writer).

It was fantastic to be with other writers again; it's been a long time since my last course! Just to be reminded that there are others out there who write just because they love it.

It was also great - and annoying - to discover that Swansea library had that afternoon hosted a launch party for would-be NaNoNers. And that a meeting room is going to be made available every Wednesday 11.00 am - 3.00 pm during November for people to go and write, be inspired by the collection of How-to write books that will be displayed, and just to hang out with other writers. To encourage and be encouraged.

Use your local library! Before it's gone!

No comments:

Post a Comment