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What's the use of libraries?

Enter here to talk about books, art, literature, film, TV and anything else to do with popular culture.
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thundril
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What's the use of libraries?

#1 Post by thundril » February 6th, 2011, 12:46 am

Phillip Pullman in Oxford, here. Talking about why he likes libraries.

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animist
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#2 Post by animist » February 6th, 2011, 8:49 am

nice one, thun! He's so right. I think we should use our libraries on principle, as statistics seem to count with the decision-makers. I was a librarian at one time, and I always think that the library is the most obviously acceptable face of socialism - why buy stuff and then forget it if you can borrow and return?

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Dave B
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#3 Post by Dave B » February 6th, 2011, 9:54 am

Have to agree with the man - on all his points regarding the "Big Society" not only the library service. I volunteer, but only for those posts that would not get filled any other way and do not do others out of a job.

In a radio programme a couple of days ago one of the points made by a writer was that with children are choosy and fickle (as are most adults I suppose!) in terms of what they like to read/have read to them. With a public library service the parent can draw several books, often chosen by the child on the cover alone. Out of those one or two may be considered as good by the kid. Families cannot afford a similar selection system if books have to be paid for.

It is that early experience that can launch the rest of a person's reading career.

It was suggested that libraries are "middle class". Not sure what constitutes the "middle class" any more, but perhaps it should be library using that is one of the qualifications, regardless of income, quality of housing etc.

Should the ConDem's have their way should schools be encouraged to take up some of the need? I would certainly be willing to contribute to a school library service if the worst happened.

Which libraries to go? I am torn here, we have a good library a mile away, next to Tescos. Then we have the main city library about 20 minutes away by bus. A friend lives in a village about seven miles away, with a library in it. Should we loose our library in favour of those further from the city? I have to think, "Yes", even if our library gets more traffic than the village one.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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lewist
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#4 Post by lewist » February 6th, 2011, 11:55 am

Philip Pullman spoke to me. I agreed with everything he said. I work recruiting volunteers and he is absolutely right. You can't expect volunteers to do everything. There seems to be no understanding of the fact that there is already a huge cohort in these countries of people doing things as volunteers, from providing transport for those with none (my line of work) to running charity shops and the like. They give freely of their time. Often they are people with too much time on their hands and they benefit enormously from their volunteering. However, there are things we need professionals to do. Yes, there is a place for volunteering but volunteers can't do everything.

Libraries are important places. As a child I was a constant visitor, reading several books a week every week, just as Philip Pullman was. My socialist parents taught me to be proud of the fact that learning was so highly regarded in our country that this service was provided free. They also taught me to appreciate the fact that our libraries in Fife benefited from legacies from Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist, and were particularly good as a result.

I absolutely agree that the present government in London knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. And they can't even have the honesty to do their own dirty work.
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

ludite
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#5 Post by ludite » February 6th, 2011, 1:21 pm

Libraries are one of the most important of the free to use ( or nearly free) services. It is were I came across books that I could read for free, were ever I have lived the first thing I do is find the library and join. I Love reading I could not afford to buy all the books that I read. At the moment I have from my library I have two books on theatre one Reginald hill, a novel about the crusades and one on the napoleonic wars I could not afford to buy them and one of the books on the theatre out of print. The library here in Newquay as just been reprieved but the future is far from certain

lewist
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#6 Post by lewist » February 6th, 2011, 4:28 pm

ludite wrote:Libraries are one of the most important of the free to use ( or nearly free) services. ...The library here in Newquay as just been reprieved but the future is far from certain
Is it not disgraceful that something so important should have a doubtful future?

I remember visiting my first boss when she was long retired, living in the Strath of Kildonan, and the library visiting. The librarian came up the path with a stack of books he thought Esther might like, accepted a quick cup of tea and got quick reviews of last week's books before going on in his van to the next stop. That wonderful service was expensive, I'm sure, but the pleasure it brought to an ageing intellectual was immeasurable. That's the kind of thing I'm proud to pay taxes for.
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

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Alan C.
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#7 Post by Alan C. » February 6th, 2011, 6:12 pm

If our library was to close I think Mary would seek out and kill the person responsible.
We use the library every Saturday, Mary taking out 7 or 8 books at a time and I usually find something of interest.

We also have the mobile library Lewis, an important resource for the old biddies living in the country with no transport.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Fia
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#8 Post by Fia » February 6th, 2011, 10:20 pm

I could hug Philip Pullman. I work in my village library and know he talks much sense.
This is the Big Society, you see. It must be big, to contain so many volunteers.
Nicely put.
And we do this already. I spent a lovely hour this afternoon delivering books that i thought they might like to the residents of a local nursing home. I know their tastes: what they have read, if they need large print or talking books, if they are dementing to take a couple of well-chosen children's picture books. I don't get paid for this, nor expect to.
What I personally hate about this bidding culture is that it sets one community, one group, one school, against another.
Absolutely. The way that need is outbid by form-filling and networking competence of more fortunate communities will only enhance social divisions.

Libraries are neutral public meeting spaces with amazing facilities. Anyone can walk into a library. They have a long history in our culture and we feel at home. As I heard someone say on the radio today: it's a cradle to grave place. Not only do we have a warm space with comfy chairs, books in all their formats, but also local info for tourists and locals alike, the People's Network (one of the few things I thank Blair for - ensuring all public libraries had free internet access) and storytelling, meet the author, book launches from local authors, homework club, and we teach older folk to use computers.
We are, as all community libraries, a hub. If you close that hub, you choke the community. And deprive half a generation of access to the undoubted joys, growth and fulfilment that being able to read books you can't afford in your community.
I love it because its presence in a town or a city reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight.
Couldn't put it better myself, Philip.

thundril
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#9 Post by thundril » February 6th, 2011, 11:44 pm

It's the same thing as in the case of the National Centres of Excellence in traditional music;
We need to learn the difference between what we can't afford, and what we can't afford to lose.

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Dave B
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#10 Post by Dave B » February 7th, 2011, 10:49 am

We need to learn the difference between what we can't afford, and what we can't afford to lose.
That is brilliant, thundril! :notworthy:
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Alan H
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#11 Post by Alan H » February 7th, 2011, 2:15 pm

Interesting fact of the day...

A library not that far from here in Kensal Rise was opened in 1900 by one Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
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animist
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#12 Post by animist » February 7th, 2011, 2:44 pm

we all seem to agree on this topic. One thing I would like to get feedback on is use of the library as a public convenience - yes, I do mean for that sort of relief! I mention this as my local library was nicely refurbished about a year ago, and the staff seemed not too keen on non-users knowing that there were nicely refurbished toilets inside; in fact, a woman from out-of-town recently wrote to the local rag that she had been questioned, when asking to use the loo, whether she was actually a library user. Any thoughts?

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Alan C.
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#13 Post by Alan C. » February 7th, 2011, 3:32 pm

The (excellent) loos in our library are in the front foyer, you have to through a second door to get to where the books are so anybody could use the loo without the staff being aware, not that they would have a problem with it; I'm sure they wouldn't.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

thundril
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#14 Post by thundril » February 7th, 2011, 3:41 pm

Whenever I arrive in a town where I expect to be for a couple of weeks or more, the library is one of the first things I look for; it's not just a bookshop or a reading room; it's where all sorts of interesting things are announced on notice-boards. It's a social hub of the most civilised kind.
And I've never been turned out, forbidden to use the loos, or in any other way challenged. (even though I often look a bit rough round the edges :smile: )

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animist
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#15 Post by animist » February 7th, 2011, 4:49 pm

Alan C. wrote:The (excellent) loos in our library are in the front foyer, you have to through a second door to get to where the books are so anybody could use the loo without the staff being aware, not that they would have a problem with it; I'm sure they wouldn't.
that's interesting, Alan, as is what Thundril says. Yes, I am quite annoyed now that the loos are not in the foyer but way back in the less-used part and without any indication of what they are; I bet this was part of the design brief. I may support the letter-writer and chip in a letter too (but as I am well known to the librarians I may not divulge my name! - I could call myself Animist, I suppose...or Amipist?)

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Alan C.
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#16 Post by Alan C. » February 7th, 2011, 4:59 pm

I was going to say.......For the recent joiners, but bloody hell! It's nearly 4 years since I posted this in the.
"do you ever go to Church" thread.
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Dave B
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#17 Post by Dave B » February 7th, 2011, 9:46 pm

animist wrote:we all seem to agree on this topic. One thing I would like to get feedback on is use of the library as a public convenience - yes, I do mean for that sort of relief! I mention this as my local library was nicely refurbished about a year ago, and the staff seemed not too keen on non-users knowing that there were nicely refurbished toilets inside; in fact, a woman from out-of-town recently wrote to the local rag that she had been questioned, when asking to use the loo, whether she was actually a library user. Any thoughts?
The local one has a nice loo as well (but extra cheap paper) and theu know me enough not to comment if I need to use it.

The one in town (where there are not enough publicly accessible loos) has been refurbished but they omitted to install public loos, only the old one (upstairs via a lift that one has to get the key for) for wheelchair uses! Good planning that, hope a wheelchair user with IBS never have a quick need! It was bad enough when I suffered IBS, plotted my course in town to never be far from an accessible loo! One could use the loo in the museum next to the library, but that has been closed for weeks now, since they discovered asbestos during their refit. And they will be charging entry from when they open.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Nick
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#18 Post by Nick » February 8th, 2011, 11:04 am

Libraries are important to a small section of society. They should be more important to a larger section of society, but apparently only 16% of the population actually use them. I belong to my local library, and as it happens, will be going today, as I have a book to return. Libraries are very important for kiddies, principally, IMO, because they can try books without cost. If books had to be purchased, then I think they would have less opportunity to read. Likewise, there are all the obvious benefits for the retired. So I'm not against libraries, OK?

However, I think Philip Pullman's article is just an outburst of luvvieness, and IMO, shows wilful ignorance of subjects other than literature. He may raise a cheer, but IMO does precious little to ultimately help his cause.
Here in Oxfordshire we are threatened with the closure of 20 out of our 43 public libraries. Mr Keith Mitchell, the leader of the county council, said in the Oxford Times last week that the cuts are inevitable, and invites us to suggest what we would do instead. What would we cut? Would we sacrifice care for the elderly? Or would youth services feel the axe?

I don’t think we should accept his invitation. It’s not our job to cut services. It’s his job to protect them.
What an utterly, utterly stupid response by Pullman. The Council cannot raise extra money in local taxes as they are not allowed to, and receive less grant from the tax-payer through central taxation from the Government. So Pullman is doing no more than sticking his fingers in his ears, and shouting "la-la-la! I'm not listening!" besides showing a disgraceful ignorance or disregard for how the economy and government works. The rest of his article continues in much the same way (but I find it too exasperating to continue). Result? Absolutely no ideas how to help maintain access to books. He should be sent to the library and told to look at a few suitable works of non-fiction, and not allowed out until he sees the idiocy of his position.

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robzed
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#19 Post by robzed » February 9th, 2011, 8:55 pm

Just for what it's worth...

Books are a brilliant local resource but there are several others things that our library does I know about and have had contact with...

* Place for students - somewhere to study. Lots of laptops that people bring, of course. Reference books help, even in the libraries that have Internet. Books still contain info the Internet doesn't.
* Storytime & Rhymetime for young kids and babies (respectively) - also place for social interaction of parents at the same time. (They do both week ones and weekend ones - to suit working / non-working parents).
* Notice boards - the Internet (which I'm big on) just doesn't do this well at all at the moment... there is lots of info I just wouldn't know where to get at on the Internet.
* Craft sessions for kids
* For sale old books

There are also things like computer classes and internet access for people who haven't got access.

I'm not sure where these things would go. Churches have sometime done some of these. But that's not really any good for a humanist or atheist. I've been to parent & toddlers groups at churches and coffee mornings. Doesn't bother me. But I think it's not ideal. Colleges recently have tended to be less community focused and more commercially focused. Schools have always been a mixed bag and tend to be short on money.

Our library, which is central town library, is at minimum staffing levels. Which means the person who does children's coordinator can't go out to schools or nurseries any more - which was an activity which encouraged kids to go to the library.

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Alan H
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Re: What's the use of libraries?

#20 Post by Alan H » February 10th, 2011, 12:06 am

Nick wrote:What an utterly, utterly stupid response by Pullman. The Council cannot raise extra money in local taxes as they are not allowed to, and receive less grant from the tax-payer through central taxation from the Government. So Pullman is doing no more than sticking his fingers in his ears, and shouting "la-la-la! I'm not listening!" besides showing a disgraceful ignorance or disregard for how the economy and government works.
Nonsense. He is letting the elected officials know what some of the electorate feel should be a priority. It's up to the officials to weigh up the various competing interest and come to appropriate decisions. If no one bothered to tell the Councillors what they think should not be cut, how else would they know? It's not up to the electorate to do his job of balancing the budget - that's what he's paid to do. No one is saying it's easy, but that's why they get paid big bucks.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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