We Heart Libraries … or whatever

heart-libraries
We ♥ Libraries: one of many visual library memes available online

People who love books love libraries.

That’s a sort of given, isn’t it? Those of a certain age usually see it as a place of hushed reverence, a temple of learning where obeisance is paid to the written word, from where you might even extract some small portion of the hallowed manna to enjoy privately for an extended period of time.

But if, traditionally, the library has been viewed as a “repository of resources” then today that paradigm has changed, evolved, morphed into the concept of the building as a place to support the entire community. The library is no more: the buzz phrase now is community hub. This is a place for the community to link to a global community via Wi-Fi; a venue for groups to meet, socialise or conduct business; a centre for education and training; a site for additional services and other agencies to share. This rebranding foresees a near future when all libraries are to be regarded as facilitators instead of deliverers.

Continue reading “We Heart Libraries … or whatever”

Do you love libraries?

library-love

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

I’m sure you’ve seen this quote all over social media, supposedly by the classical writer Cicero. However, I’d never seen the source given, leading me to suppose that this was one of those fake quotations that the internet is awash with, aimed at those who would be in sympathy with the views expressed.

Nevertheless, searching for the Latin translation seemed to offer some sort of resolution, and so it proved. The sentence is from a letter Cicero wrote to his friend Terence (found in Epistulae ad familiares Book IX, Epistle 4):

si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil.

The literal translation is something like “If you have a garden in your library, nothing will be amiss.” The implication being that if you create a kind of bibliophile’s paradise — an oasis of calm perhaps — in your private library, where you can meet and discuss matters with your friends, all will be fine. You can see that the slightly inaccurate ‘quote’ usually given resonates rather more with modern feelings about public (as opposed to private) libraries.

I don’t need to tell you that in these straitened times — when we’re all told to tighten our belts even more, when all the fat has been sliced off public purses until the bone is reached — much of local government in the UK is trying their best to circumvent the admirable provisions of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 in an attempt to fit in with government austerity diktats. And, equally, some of the public is trying to say “hands off” in every which way it can.

Continue reading “Do you love libraries?”

Philistines at the gates

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" about="http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/03/03/75/3037515_93fcbc74.jpg"><span property="dct:title">Crickhowell public library</span> (<a rel="cc:attributionURL" property="cc:attributionName" href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/39302">Jaggery</a>) / <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></div>
Crickhowell Public Library by Jagger, licensed under Creative Commons licence

To my mind the litmus test of a civilised community is the presence of either a bookshop or a library, preferably both. Whenever I visit a new town or city I can’t help but keep an eye out for a bookshop or, failing that, a local library, because that suggests that the locals value the life of the mind at least as much as branded clothing, a sofa outlet or a supermarket chain.

So I was horrified at rumours that the small town we’ve just moved to, which boasts a small but lively bookshop as well as a branch library, was in danger of losing the latter. “337 libraries have closed in the United Kingdom in the last 5 years,” I read. The county council, needing to make cuts in what continues to be the deepest, longest period of austerity in peace time, eventually opted to cut all branch library times (and therefore staff salaries) by 20%, safeguarding this branch library.

Long term, however, the future is not good: Continue reading “Philistines at the gates”