We got four new books yesterday. Best of all, they were completely free.
Baby Bookworm and I went to our local library and selected them. In three weeks, we will take them back and choose more.
One friend of mine is such a fan of libraries (and not one for clutter) that she has borrowed more than a thousand different books for her two daughters over the years. Imagine how much they would cost to buy.
I was a regular library user pre-motherhood and would get my book club reads from there, where I could.
I’ll confess I haven’t been so much in the last year as we are lucky to be sent lots of books for the blog.
But as it is Libraries Week 2017, it felt important to return.
I’m not the only one. More than half of us have a library card and there were more than 250 million visits to Britain’s public libraries last year.
That’s more than the number of cinema and theatre visits, trips to the top ten tourist attractions and live gig attendances combined.
Yet our libraries are under threat like never before. Council cuts mean in our borough of Lewisham, virtually all have transferred to community management to keep their doors and shelves open.
Passionate volunteers not only staff the desk but run wonderful free events for families, like Rhyme Time and Baby Bounce.
There are computers with internet access, for anyone who needs to use them. On our visit we saw a number of schoolchildren sat doing their homework.
In Herne Hill, not far from us, locals held protests when the council proposed turning their library into a gym.
As the volunteer checking out my books wisely commented, what use is a gym to an asylum seeker trying to improve their language skills? Or to a parent on a low income who wants to share a bedtime story with their baby?
Yes, physical wellbeing is important – but what about mental wellbeing?
There are lots of things from my childhood that I know Baby Bookworm will find funny anachronisms as his grows up.
Sitting round chatting to your first boyfriend on a landline in your parents’ front room, for example.
Or taping your favourite songs off the radio chart show and taking your camera film into Supersnaps to be developed (and discovering only half of your 24 photos have come out).
I never imagined using a library would be one of them.
Checking out a new book has been so integral to my life, I suppose I’ve taken it for granted.
I used the library in my neighbouring village frequently growing up, along with the school one.
I practically lived there at university and my first newspaper office even had a small reference room, staffed by a part time librarian.
It seems crazy that in this day and age, when we are keen for kids to spend less time looking at screens and are trying to be less throwaway, libraries face extinction.
As the Manic Street Preachers famously sang, libraries gave us power.
The band are living proof of that and credit their success with having access to the knowledge contained within their local library shelves.
Libraries aren’t an indulgence and books shouldn’t be a luxury.
They are a gateway to a better life.
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