As a lifelong lover and user of my local libraries, I was saddened to hear that the government intend to close 10% of British Libraries in a cost cutting exercise and replace some of the knowledgeable trained staff with volunteers.
Some of my earliest memories are of visiting the local library with my parents, both avid readers, and choosing a book for the week, which I would spend ages doing, carefully taking them down from the shelves and sitting quietly flicking through the pages of each book until it was time to leave. It was my first experience of independance being allowed into the childrens library alone and being able to make my own decision on something.
Later in life, the library at University became my second home, where I would leave with arm fulls of design books under my arms as well as videos for further research on my chosen subject. It was also the place where we could read hard to get and often expensive, design magazines, all for free.
After graduating I gained some work experience at an architects practice in the centre of Manchester, where I was given the task of researching the worlds best libraries in order for the team to pitch for the redesign of a large city library, which they then successfully went onto to win after their brilliant design of the new wing of the cities famous John Rylands Library had been built and so well received.
Manchester’s John Rylands Library which is reminiscent of Hogwarts inside
The new extension by architects Austin Smith Lord, blends the old and new seamlessly.
During that research it became apparent to me just how important a part of the community libraries are. As well as hosting events such as Rhyme time for young parents to take their children and meet other parents and carers, they are also a meeting place for the older community where they can read the daily newspapers for free, have a coffee and a chat and spend time in the company of others. Libraries are also used for hosting events such as craft sales, charity fundraising cake and coffee mornings and talks and presentations by guest speakers. I went a few years ago to our local library in Urmston Manchester, to listen to a talk by professional photographer Kevin Cummins, on his career photographing some of the cities famous musicians such as Morrissey, The Smiths and New Order. The event was small and intimate and more importantly free, so inclusive to all who applied for tickets on a first come first served basis.
My local library in Urmston which is a new build and very well used by all the community.
Getting behind the movement to stop our local libraries being closed is another Manchester musician, Guy Garvey, front man of the band Elbow. It was his brain wave to start “6 Music Celebrates Libraries.” For the next two weeks live shows will be broadcast from a series of libraries and 6 music presenters will be choosing a book from which they will then compile a playlist.
For more details on the events and Guy’s reasons for wanting to highlight the closures you can read his interview for The Independent here. His show was broadcast last Friday from Manchester’s refurbished Central Library, which opened to much acclaim from the residents of Manchester. I went along the week it was reopened and was thrilled to see original parts of the library had been left and juxtaposed with areas that had totally been brought up to date, a fantastic achievement by the designers and architects involved.
Manchester’s Central Library after its sensitive restoration.
If you are worried about your local library being under threat of closure, you can start a petition and spread the word on social media. Surprisingly members of staff are not entitled to be able to do this themselves so our help is vital. Of course the best way to avoid closure is by us, the public, continuing to use them.