Image by ckaroli
I’ve watched the media furore about libraries recently, and I have honestly felt outraged to the very core that so many are being closed down, or suffering from huge funding cuts. I love books, and I love reading, and it pains me that entire communities should be denied free access to books. Yet it wasn’t until I’d read a few articles and got sufficiently worked up that I realised – I haven’t been a member of a public library for ten years. How dare I get so angry that the government are cutting funding to a resource that I haven’t used or supported in any way during my adult life? If I had considered going to the library, I would have reminded myself that I like to own books, so that I can reread them and store them on the shelf both as a reminder of my reading experience, and a representation to visitors about who I am. I would have conveniently forgotten that I regularly borrow books from friends, and feel no qualms about doing so.
Last night, then I visited Chapel Allerton library to register – and to begin my cultural adventures in Leeds. The experience was pleasantly simple – I just showed my ID and signed the back of a card – and I was free to wander the shelves and take out up to 20 books.
Despite the ten year gap, it didn’t take long for the memories to come back. Like the time when I was six, and I was in the local paper because I won second place in a Beatrix Potter library competition at about 6 years old. I won a stuffed Peter Rabbit, which wore a blue waistcoat and toted an oversized carrot. I was less than pleased for two reasons: firstly, I would have preferred the third place prize, which was an Easter egg; secondly, I was convinced that I had cheated because I had read the answers to the questions in a Beatrix Potter book. I flashed back to my early teens, when I would always borrow a Sweet Valley High novel along with a Point Horror – so I could switch when the live puppet or the crank calls got too frightening.
I’ve been living in Chapel A for 3 months now, and one of the things I love about it is the architecture. But I still wasn’t prepared for the shabby grandeur of the library building. The interior is all elaborate bevelling, commanding arches and ornate pillars. It’s a gorgeous place to spend time, whether it’s reading, browsing, or checking your emails (I know – you do that on your phone. Well how about broadening your horizons a bit?).
I borrowed three books yesterday (none of them SVH or Point Horror), and I can’t wait to read them. Please, if you care about books, children or education, do something small and join your local library. And maybe even borrow a book. If I haven’t convinced you, much more eloquent folk have added their voices to the debate: how about Neil Gaiman or Philip Pullman? Do your small part to help save libraries in Leeds!