On Library Closures

Update (July 2019)

Essex County Council committed in July 2019 to not closing any libraries in Essex until at least 2024, see this news story.

Our local library, a short walk from our house, is closing. The local council is soliciting feedback, and at the end of a long series of questions there was a comments box. I thought I’d take the opportunity to write something. I imagine my words went into the void, so I’m sharing them here.

My children love our local library. The library staff know them all by name, and I think we have the distinction of being the only family to have hired the library for our children’s birthday parties.

My wife and I know how important books are, and since we’re able to, our children’s home lives are filled with books, and time spent reading together. Not every family can do this, but we can, so we do.

But books in the home are no replacement for a library.

Neither is an online service a replacement for a library, though being able to choose books online is a good thing.

Neither is a mobile library a replacement for a library, though anything which gets books in the hands of children is a good thing.

A library is a place where children can lose themselves for an hour at a time. Picking up books - flicking through one and putting it back, picking up another and immersing themselves in it. Stumbling across a collection of books in a different genre, or for a different age group to the ones you’re used to, and finding something new.

I have three children. My oldest child is five years old, and she loves to read. She has terrible taste in books, but she has a taste all of her own. We read together about fairies, princesses and ponies. I come home from work and she doesn’t hear the first few things I say to her because she’s on the sofa, completely immersed in a new library book. My younger two children will get there soon, and I’m a little bit heartbroken for my one year old that she’ll not have the experience of wandering to the library after school to browse, and losing herself in a book.

I’m not expecting this to change anyone’s mind, but I feel like I owe it to my children to express my sadness. I know council finances are tight, and getting tighter. I know there are likely more urgent needs.

We’ll buy our children more books, and travel into the city centre to visit the library there, but we won’t make it as often, and we’ll only be able to do it on Saturdays, since there’s not time to get there after school.

Not everyone has that option, diminished as it is, and all our children will be poorer for it.