We can’t lose public libraries – they’re as crucial for students as ever
Growing up, libraries played a huge part in helping me to establish myself as a poet. I discovered works by Anne Sexton and TS Eliot in a public library. I spent hours unpicking their lines and making my own interpretations. The library was a truly reflective space for me, away from school and away from home, where I began to form my own voice as a poet. There was the sense of excitement when finding something new on the same shelf a week later and taking it home at no expense. I absorbed a canon of books I could never have afforded to buy.
There was a staggering £50m cut from library budgets across Britain in 2014-15 and 106 libraries closed in the same year, according to the latest Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy annual survey of libraries in Great Britain.
Author Jeanette Winterson says that “libraries are doing more education work than ever. Libraries and literacy cannot be separated”. She protests strongly against libraries being classed as “leisure”, alongside sports centres, and says they should instead be part of the national education budget.
The increasing, though almost silent, decline of public libraries in the UK means we have entered an incredibly worrying time for students. We are not only undermining the 1964 Public Library and Museum Act by cutting the opening hours and staff, but also forcing them to be run by local volunteers which seems to be an even more direct road to their deaths. Even in wealthy areas, volunteer-run libraries are struggling to pay for big expenses such as maintenance and uphold their library status.
William Sieghart’s independent report on England’s public library service, which was first published in 2014, revealed that libraries ensure that children from the poorest backgrounds are not left behind and give us the best possible chance to address the poor literacy standards in the UK. The most recent OECD report rated English 16- to 19-year-olds the worst of 23 developed nations in literacy and 22 of 23 in numeracy. Public libraries also play a crucial role in making sure everyone has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and play a role in levelling out the class divide.
I’ve seen a number of public libraries in London close down in the last few years and have been alarmed by the lack of outrage. I’ve heard people say that the threat to close Belsize Park Library, in north London, doesn’t matter because “kids these days research on their laptops and buy books on Amazon”. This is a middle-class perspective and it ignores the hundreds of kids in social housing in the Belsize Park area who do not necessarily have laptops or one-click Amazon accounts.http://daily-blogger.com/we-cant-lose-public-libraries-theyre-as-crucial-for-students-as-ever/http://daily-blogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/We-cant-lose-public-libraries-–-theyre-as-crucial-for-students-as-ever.pnghttp://daily-blogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/We-cant-lose-public-libraries-–-theyre-as-crucial-for-students-as-ever-150x150.pngeducationWe can't lose public libraries – they're as crucial for students as ever