Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Writing Wednesday: Libraries
Recently there has been a lot of campaigning to 'Save our Libraries', at risk from the massive cuts that our government is introducing. There are arguments for and against, of course (the BBC gave one such balanced argument here, comparing it to the internet), but in my opinion the loss of a library is a loss of community, history and education. The internet and ebooks are here to stay, but so are paper books and ancient documents.
As a family we love our library and use it regularly. My daughter takes books that are pink or about fairies; my son can find endless books on Star Wars or Dr Who. It is a cheap source of games for the Wii and DS, games that can be tried and dismissed, tried and later bought or (due to my son's obsession and commitment) tried and completed within the borrowing period.
After months of being ignored, my book is being severely edited with the help of the library. I find that by forcing myself to go there I can sit in peace and without significant distraction and scribble all over my print-outs. Later, at home in front of the computer, I can translate my scribbles into prose. This way I get a better overall view of the story, can think as I write longhand, yet can do all the cutting, pasting and tweaking at home.
I could, of course, use the computers there as well, but I enjoy the freehand aspect of sitting at a desk to write. I also enjoy the people in the village who come in to read the newspapers (and have a quiet gossip on the side) and the children who come in for book readings. I use it to keep up with what is going on around me as I read all the notices near the entrance for the various local societies.
The library offers such a wealth of information for free. I can borrow a cookery book in order to make marmalade, or a book of local walks because we have a free weekend, or a book on cheesemaking (because I've never done it ... and now know I'm never likely to!); and I can even borrow novels to read.
Regular, long-term readers of this blog may recall that last summer I set myself a small library challenge. Whilst my children entered the local Summer Reading Challenge to read six books over the holidays, I decided I would try to do the same. My main excuse for failing is that my books were considerably longer than theirs! (If you are interested, I read The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens, Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse and Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith).
What is particularly lovely about libraries is that, through the PLR system, the authors receive money every time a book is borrowed. This way, although they have no royalties from a sale of the book, they do receive something for it being read. Authors (with some notable exceptions) do not generally earn very much and these few pennies matter. We encourage and support musicians by purchasing their music (on-line or from shops); in the same way we should support authors for their hard work in producing quality prose or poetry.
So please support your favourite authors and local community and use your library. If not, you may lose it.
[Here is the author Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo and other classics!) campaigning against the cuts in library funding.]