You may think that I’m writing this blog from the perspective of an English Teacher and yes literacy levels in children across England are dropping and I think that reading and being read to as a child is a huge factor in boosting literacy levels. However, libraries have been a huge part of my childhood and adult life living in a rural community.
My mum was a librarian and I’m often envious as to how well the job worked around her role as a very hands on farmer’s wife and mother to three children. Back then library staff were highly trained and well paid. She was well thought of and wasn’t given any grief by customers as the library service was free and well, who doesn’t enjoy something that’s free? The working hours were convenient and she didn’t bring work home with her, but she gave a lot to her job and the communities she worked with. Everyone knew my mum and she knew them. It was a sad day when due to cuts she was made redundant in 2015. I don’t think she has ever really filled the gap left behind.
For me the best bit was that Mum worked on the mobile libraries and we could go with her during school holidays. We’d drink in the countryside and explore the other villages that the library travelled to. We would sit in the front cab and read book after book. We always got a lot of fuss as for many in the very remote areas Mum and the driver were the only people they saw to have a conversation with, so seeing three chatty little girls from time to time was a real treat.
As an adult I’ve seen the mobile library service dwindle to monthly visits to select villages. Trained staff who would know their customers and the books they liked to read have been made redundant. They have been replaced by people for whom it is usually a stop gap and they are under qualified. The new staff usually grunt and direct you to the nearest computer if you so much as dare to take your books to the counter. Recent proposals state that some town and village libraries will be closed altogether or are planned to be run by volunteers.
Over the last few years through my work as a teacher and moving in parenting circles I’ve heard people who have been bullied or suffered from post natal depression say that reading saved them. Being able to escape to another world or chat to library staff made the difference to them. In my first year of being a mother the baby reading groups that I attended at the library were a lifeline.
The libraries have saved so many, now we need to save them.
Log onto your local council website and see how you can help. Derbyshire County Council has the following questionnaire to be completed by 30th July. www.derbyshire.gov.uk/librariesforderbyshire
Libraries don’t discriminate. They are free and open to all. We need them.