Do you remember your early visits to the library? I have a clear picture of myself aged about seven setting off with my mum, both of us armed with books to return, eager to borrow new ones or to take some old favourites out again. To get to the children’s library we walked through an underpass decorated with ‘cave paintings’. It was like an entrance to another world; a world of imagination and adventure, where anything was possible and new stories were just waiting to be discovered. And I have memories of library visits with my son when he was young, too: leafing through picture books, skimming the opening chapters, then, the agony of choice, and the anticipation of reading together when we got home. These important reading pleasures figured hugely in my life. How sad to think that they may soon disappear for many people across the UK and that some children will never have the opportunity to use a public library – ‘austerity cuts’ mean that hundreds of libraries are closing.
In an age when books can be accessed cheaply online and information downloaded from the internet, does anyone care about libraries? Yes, they clearly do. On Saturday 5th November in London a huge crowd of between two thousand and two thousand five hundred people joined the National March for Libraries, Museums and Galleries. This was the first of a series of marches which shows how much people really do care. Near the British Library Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, authors Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons spoke to campaigners, and were joined by a host of others including Michael Rosen and Cathy Cassidy.
There will be more marches regionally to protest about the serious threats to our cultural services. Do join in. If you care about our children’s imaginations, if you believe that all children should have the opportunity to borrow a book for free from a library nearby, and if you believe that trained library staff are the best people to help them select their books, then get involved. Libraries are worth fighting for.