Love libraries (mostly)

The Guardian reports that JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie, Irvine Welsh and Jacqueline Wilson are among 150 authors who have pledged to help galvanise support for public libraries in the UK and combat their growing image problem. It’s part of the Love Libraries campaign, launched this month.
Rowling compared libraries to the World-Between-The-Worlds from CS Lewis’s Narnia books, “where visitors could enter a thousand different worlds by jumping into different pools”.
“When I got my eldest daughter a library card I felt as though I had bought her citizenship of that same fabulous world,” she said.
Rushdie focused on the potential libraries have for disseminating ideas, saying “if knowledge is power, then the public library system gives that power to anyone who wants it.”
But a recent UK study shows that 42% of adults haven’t visited their local library in the past two years.
That doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t reading. I hadn’t visited a library for years and years – not since I stopped studying – but had to start all over again to research historical details for my books.
Even though the Auckland City Library’s collection of material on Malta, for example, is limited (not a lot of call for it here, of course) it’s quite good on ships and maritime history. And it does always seem full of people.
But don’t start me on that library. I only love it on principal; in reality the relationship has soured. The Central Library has taken its entire Children’s Literature Reference Collection out of general circulation and carefully stored it in “The Basement”. Just when I started studying again. Sorry if I’ve mentioned this before, but it drives me crazy.
You can’t browse or flick – and flicking, as we all know, can lead to the most sublime flights of fancy or blindingly brilliant ideas. But no. Flicking, fancy and flight are not allowed. Now you have to ask for a specific title and wait for the ever-patient staff to bring the book out of its hiding hole. Then, usually, you can’t borrow it to actually read – it has to go back to The Basement.
Maybe if they didn’t call it The Basement it wouldn’t seem quite so sad and dark and lonely. The traditional “stack” always seems like a much friendlier place for books to be stored, as if they might be cosying up to each other, and partying when the lights go out. You can imagine Simon Schama interrogating Tolstoy, Pinter haranguing Hardy, and Margaret Mead scribbling it all down.
The Basement sounds as if it were a lost and found department, with books sitting about sulking, damply and dimly, like wallflowers at a dance wishing someone would ask for the next polka.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s