As you know, I’m a book worm. I wouldn’t know what to do without a book on my person. I carry a book / my Kindle everywhere I go just in case I am presented with a couple of seconds to read. It might be in a waiting room or waiting to meet a friend, it might be in the hairdressers or when there’s nothing on TV – there’s nothing I love more than the written word. What may surprise you, however, is my next statement: I don’t go to the library.
I have a vivid memory from my childhood, I was aged about four at the time, of being in the library with my classmates when I flicked through a book and found a questionable-looking smear on a picture book. Was it blood or something worse? I’ll never know, nor do I want to. That experience put me off libraries for life. Even during my three years as an undergraduate, I made as few trips to the library as humanly possible. I spent a lot of the money I earned on buying books instead of borrowing them. I hate how library books make my hands feel dusty and I still can’t get that smear out of my mind.
However, when I took some time off last year to concentrate on completing my Masters, I found myself without a regular income and a dwindling number of books. That was when The Boy Wonder convinced me to visit the library with him. I was determined I wouldn’t touch anything while I was there but the sheer amount of books, some in darn good condition, seduced me.
Newcastle City Library got a complete overhaul a couple of years ago and now looks almost futuristic. However, even the local libraries that aren’t having millions spent on them do a darn important job. I was lucky as a child, my parents could afford to buy me books. Not everyone’s parents can afford those luxuries but with libraries, every child has the opportunity to access books and, in turn, develop their imaginations, knowledge and vocabulary.
Having spent more time in libraries in the last year than I have in my whole life, I can say with conviction that they provide a great service. There are the ‘bounce and rhyme’ sessions that they hold for babies and their parents – a great opportunity for social interaction for both – the weekly school trips, free computers for the public to use – very handy for jobseekers to use to search and apply for jobs.
However, I’m also aware that certain members of society abuse this great resource. I know that teenagers use libraries as a place to access Facebook, distracting the genuine patrons and causing a disturbance. Some parents use the library as a free baby-sitting service; sending their children there with packed lunches or dinner money during school holidays while they go to work. I’ve seen people there to use the toilets, sleep and cause a disturbance.
The role of the library needs to be reassessed. There need to be tighter controls over what websites can be viewed, and the length of time and purpose people use the computers monitored. Libraries are a great place to publicise local activities as well as a helpful learning resource but they need to be respected.