Have you ever taken your child to the library? Have you ever listened to the absorbed silence as little ones suddenly find themselves surrounded by hundreds of picture books to open and investigate and drool over?
It’s enthralling! Far better than bookshops; it’s less embarrassing when they drool!
We had a wonderful service when we home educating. We had a visiting library van trundling down our rural road every two weeks. Don’t know how it managed it, mounting the bank that the lane weaves over and turning round in a farm yard.
This fabulous service meant that we didn’t always have to make the twenty mile round trip for the children to enjoy the revelation of being among loads of books. And it was almost like a special delivery service for me as I could order my books online from the catalogue, books that probably wouldn’t be in our local library anyway, and have them brought out on the van. So both me and the children were in heaven.
Of course that disappeared with all the other cuts to public spending. And I’m not surprised – it was rather lavish. But it will be utterly tragic if our smaller libraries get closed. Or funding to get the library van out the remote villages is stopped.
Because however small we sometimes find these local libraries, they are a lifeline to worlds not otherwise available. Worlds that are seen through encounters with books and computers that some can only access through libraries.
The trouble is with the politicians who make the decisions about cuts is that they have little experience of what it’s like to be poor. Most come from a position of having everything they need to be able to go where they want and the money to pay for it. Most of the rest of us don’t. Many people will never know the world beyond their own lane end or city street. Except for the unrealistic junk on television and the gross idolisation of celebrity, often breeding envy and idleness and even the hopelessness of ever attaining those riches.
So libraries promote another culture. A culture of access and worldliness, knowledge and wordiness, for those without other means.
For despite the middle classes all clustered together in their exclusive enclaves we have other clusters of cultural poverty where people may never get the flavour of aspiration that can change their lives.
Maybe it suits the politicians to keep us down that way, for it fuels their luxurious lifestyles. And closing down these small but vital public services is a way of also closing down those aspirations.
We mustn’t let them get away with it.
But I didn’t mean to get political. I just meant to say that it is an important part of our parenting to take our kids to libraries, to show them what a worth of both opportunity and immense pleasure there can be in books and stories and technological tales from a wider world than the one they inhabit. We need to fight for them.
For the most irreplaceable impact of regular library visits is that when children are surrounded by beautiful books they are inevitably inspired to read.