This afternoon I have had the pleasure of a couple of hours to myself and a new craft book to read. I’ve been longing for the Yarn Bombing book for a while now, but haven’t been able to justify buying it. My local library didn’t have it anywhere in the county, but I know that you can request that they buy certain book. With all the budget cuts in the public sector I thought it might be a bit of a pipe dream, but I duly filled in the online request form, and when they asked why I wanted this book I said ‘So I can crochet pieces of street art to cheer up the town’, or words to that effect. Someone must have appreciated it as 3 weeks later I double check the library catalogue and it is now in stock!
I absolutely love libraries. I love reading, though I don’t get time to do it much (you can’t craft and read at the same time unfortunately). But more than reading, I just love books. I feel that books are the answer to all life’s woes. And libraries feed into to my inherently miserly nature. (As an example I have spent the whole morning, with the baby, volunteering at the local NCT sale. It’s great fun, with nice people, you get to do a bit for charity, but the best thing is you get to shop before the masses and get bargain clothes and toys!). To be able to go and get up to twenty books for free, then leave them for someone else to read, it just the most amazing thing.
Melk Abbey Library, Austria
When I was a young teenager my haunt on a Friday afternoon was the mobile library, a large articulated lorry which would park in the parade of shops nestled between the three council estates which made up the local community. There I would pick up piles of books, Drina Ballerina, Little House books, and later Point Horror and Sweet Valley (yes, I had amazing taste even then!). Now I spend an awful lot of time in the library with the children (partly because DH works there!), and I see these young children, especially at the beginning of summer, taking piles of books up to the counter. They’ve nothing else to worry about or do for 6 weeks but read for sheer pleasure. It just makes my heart swell with pleasure just remembering those times.
We were at real risk at losing our local library earlier in the year. Our area is a large suburban village, so large it is a good half an hour’s walk from one end to the other (well, it is with kids anyway!). There is not a lot else to walk to in the area, and the library is a regular haunt for many of the local community. When our local authority announced the cuts of several libraries, including mobile libraries accessing rural locations there was uproar. The local community protested vociferously and fortunately the power of the people won and the local parish council stumped up the money to keep the library going, on reduced hours, for the foreseeable future. Due to the reorganisation as a result of the rest of the cuts DH will no longer work at the local library soon, but will work at the main town library. This is sad for several reasons, mainly of convenience to my family; also because, as one of the local mothers said to me, it is a shame the the two male workers are leaving the library. They are really role models to her two boys, showing them that it is cool for boys to be interested in books too. It is her eldest son that I regularly see taking piles of books out that he whizzes through, it’s just so heart warming to see.
Even when DH moves on, we will still be regulars of the local library. DH’s other colleagues have taken my daughters under their wings. The girls potter around, the eldest picking out piles of books to take home, and the youngest destroying the DVD and book displays, which no-one bats an eyelid at, despite my blushes. Sometimes Betty even gets to check out her own books, which she loves.
Whenever I tell people DH works in the library everyone says “Oh, I’d love to work in a library”. But clearly not every really does as the libraries aren’t overflowing with former hedge fund managers or GPs. The reality is, working in a library doesn’t mean you get to sit around reading books all day. In the same way that I think I would like to own a tea shop. I don’t really want to work in a tea shop. I just want to be able to sit in one and eat cake and drink tea for free all day! No, working in the library is less about working with books and more about working with people. Old and young, rich and poor. Jobseekers trying fullfil the terms of their dole allowance, creepy looking men accessing dating websites, the lady who is deaf as bat, with a thick country accent who slipped a fiver into my hands for the baby (I told you I spend a lot of time in the library!). You get all sorts. And for some it is their only human contact. The thought that it may be taken away chills me to the bone. I can’t remember who it was but there was a famous person in the media who’s CV apparently read ‘Education: Streatham Library’. Not everyone can afford to buy books, that is not to say that I think books are too expensive or have no value. They absolutely do, which is why it is right that the government subsidises libraries so that books and education, and god forbid, even just reading trashy novels for pleasure, becomes affordable for everyone. You can’t put a price on the value libraries bring. It’s intangible. But go into any library and see a young boy or girl heaving a stack of books up to the counter and you will see the profit being made etched on their face.
To tie this topic back in with crafting; I am hoping to run some introductory crafting workshops in my local library. I have never done anything like this before and have no idea how it will work but watch this space!