Tag Archives: save libraries

Bedford Library

While I’m reminiscing about Bedford, I went past Bedford Library on Tuesday and many memories came flooding back.

Bedford Library is where my education really began. I never quite got the hang of school, but I spent a lot of time in the Library. I would often end my Saturday afternoons with a cup of coffee in the Library (How advanced was that for the mid 1970s?) reading the latest edition of Scientific American.

Almost the day I left school, I discovered the adult fiction department and chose a book by Colin Wilson. He was the perfect writer for an impressionable teenager to discover by chance. As I read all the books of his they had, I acquired a list of other authors and themes to follow up. Those books led me to borrow and discover Bruckner, Wagner and Beethoven from the music library. I got stuck in the Ws for a bit, as Wodehouse was quite close by as well as a crime procedural series by another W author. I’d never know all those books were there before. Perhaps I’d thought you had to be over eighteen to look on the adult shelves!

I was eighteen when I discovered that I wanted to do art, and it was the Library that provided me with my art education. I borrowed technical books and art history books, trying out techniques and learning what it is to be an artist. I started work in Bedford, designing letterheads and things for and instant print outfit, called JayCopy, in St Peters. None of us really knew anything about design, so how did I get to learn? The Library, of course!

I suppose I could learn it all again on the internet, but I’d not have had the quiet camaraderie of others in search of knowledge and entertainment. I’d not have had the help of Librarians to show me how to find stuff out, to suggest different routes to the knowledge I required. I’d not have had the warm place to go to to learn – my flat was freezing and I couldn’t afford the electricity bills. I’d not have got the basic human interchange that leads to new areas of knowledge and learning in ways that the internet cannot ever offer on its own. I wouldn’t have been able to afford a computer anyway – so I’d have had to rely on the Library to provide that too.

Libraries are precious places. Thank you Bedford Library for keeping me on the straight and narrow and going pretty much in the right direction during what were difficult times in my life.

Gloucestershire Libraries’ Day of Celebration

Today was the Gloucestershire Libraries’ Day of Celebration and loads of authors were out and about celebrating the wonderful work our libraries and librarians do. This is a terrible picture of my friend John Dougherty, who had his audience in Cinderford Library in thrall when I got there, reading poems, telling stories and singing songs in his easy, inspiring style.

John was the “Flying Author” for the day, zooming around, visiting nine libraries across the county. Well done, John. It was great to see you again.

I spent the morning at Mitcheldean Library, telling stories and doing drawings with the children before John got there too. I followed him in Cinderford, telling stories and drawing again. We had great fun and hopefully spread the message that Libraries are great places that should be kept as the focal centres of culture and knowledge.

It was great also to see the illustrator Kate Sheppard, who had come along with her family to join in the fun and support Cinderford Library which, thankfully, has been reprieved, although it has been downgraded to an “Express” library, with fewer opening hours.

Well done everyone for organising such a great day.

It’s a shame that Gloucester County Council are so ashamed of their libraries, that they decreed a blanket ban on the media showing what a wonderful job their staff do and how much their constituents love their libraries – politics eh? There never seems to be any logic to it.

Cinderford Library and Forest View School

I’ve had a lovely morning today, helping Catherine Escott-Allen give prizes to the children of Forest View Primary School, which I visited on Monday. Catherine had worked with the children and gave them themes to write about. The best entries won their prizes today and I was particularly thrilled that every child and their family managed to make it to the celebration – I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere that has had a 100% support before.

Maybe this is because Cinderford Library is in line for closure and those who came this morning have realised what they are possibly going to lose. The County Council’s own statistics show that Cinderford, which is an old mining town, is an area of multiple deprivation, also the Council has pledged to support vulnerable people. So, to show their support, they want to close the Library and the Mobile Libraries. I just can’t understand it. If ever there was a town that needs it’s Library, Cinderford is that town.

So, how great to see Mr Lyons, the Head of Forest View and Gemma White, the Literacy Co-ordinator working so closely with their local library. The school is working hard to push the love of reading for pleasure and Mr Lyons says it is paying off already. He can see a change in the children already, “a Buzz in the air!”

I think we take reading for granted these days. As adults that can read, we forget how hard it was to learn what is a truly astonishing skill. We think of it as a basic skill, but without the ability to read we would be lost in the modern world.

School can only go so far. It requires more than daily attendance at school to acquire the amazing skill that reading is. It needs parent’s and family to keep up the reading at home – to enjoy reading, and that means trips to the Library, where knowledgeable staff are on hand to help choose new books. No family can afford all the books it needs to create confident, capable readers.

And remember, when we are old and grey, we will be relying on today’s children to keep us. Do we want them to be clever and able to run the world for us in a way we would approve? Or do we want them slumped in front of video games, as the country and our culture slips slowly into the mire?

We expect far too much of schools these days. A teacher, with 30 children, can only build the scaffolding of their education. In the end, it is the children themselves, with their ability to read, and the skills of research and finding out that come with reading, that build upon that scaffolding. Without those skills, and without the library as their out-of-school resource, they are doomed.

Thank you Catherine and and Librarians and Teachers everywhere for what you do to promote reading for pleasure. It’s how children learn for themselves, to see above the horizon and view possible new futures they could never have known were available to them before.