This week, 9 – 14 October, sees the return of Libraries Week, a nationwide celebration of libraries and their place in our community.
As both a reader and a book blogger, I’m a huge fan of my local library. As someone with a finite supply of disposable income, they’re a fantastic way of feeding my page habit without earning the disapproval of my bank manager, plus they offer a way of trialing books and authors that I’m interested in but not sure I’ll enjoy without investing my hard-earned funds.
And it seems I’m not alone in my admiration. According to statistics collected for Libraries Week, in 2016 the great British public made 250 million visits to public libraries across Great Britain. That’s more people in and out of the door of libraries nationwide than visited the cinema, the theatre, live music gigs and visited the UKs top ten tourist attractions COMBINED.
Surprisingly, young people are the group most likely to use public libraries with 15 – 25 year olds more likely to use their local library than over 55s. And 3 out of 4 people across the UK say that public libraries are essential or very important to their communities.
Despite this, libraries continue to be under threat from cuts in public spending, making national initiatives like Libraries Week – and support from all of us readers – increasingly important for their continued existence.
I’m aware that services vary across the country but I have to say that my local library service is fantastic. They’re continually investing in stock to ensure that new titles are available for loan soon after release, have an extensive audiobook and ebook selection and offer both print and digital issues of a range of magazines. All this in addition to offering a range of clubs and activities, computer access and a host of community services and information. For FREE.
But what, I hear you cry, if my local library doesn’t have a copy of the book I want? Well, for the princely sum of fifty pennies (25p for concessions and free for children), I can order a book in to my local branch from anywhere in the county. Out of county requests are more expensive but if that rare book that I just have to read can only be obtained from a library in Cornwall, then it’ll cost me £7.00 (or £3.50 for concessions and, yet again, free for the kiddos). All of which is pretty darn good I think.
It’s not a service immune from the cuts by any means. Our mobile library service has been drastically reduced and a number of smaller branch libraries are now run by the local community. Regular book sales to top up library funds mean that an author’s latest title will be readily available but try to find their debut and you might be struggling (which is especially frustrating when you want to read a crime series from the beginning). But, overall, it’s a fabulous service and one I know that I’m lucky to have access to.
The photo at the top of this post is my current library haul. As you can see, there’s everything in there from new releases to award winners. Some of the books I’ve borrowed because I want to read them ASAP but can’t really afford to invest in a hardback (Reservoir 13, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, Stay With Me), some of them because I think they sound interesting but I’m not sure they’ll be my cup of tea (The Best Kind of People, Home Fire), some because I think I’ll only read them the once (The Marriage Pact) and some because they’re non-fiction that I want to dip into for specific research (A History of Ancient Britain, Inconvenient People).
If I’d had to buy all of these books, I wouldn’t have picked up half of these titles – and would probably have waited for the paperback edition on another quarter of them. Which makes the library a huge part of the way in which I discover and enjoy new authors and new titles.
All of which boils down to me saying that I love my local library. It’s a fantastic service and a really important way for many people to access books, media and computers. So please, if you don’t already, go and show your local library some love. I’d love to hear from readers about if you do use your library (and, if not, why not), whether your library reading differs from the books you would purchase and what your current library read is. So please, drop me a comment down below or over on Twitter and, until the next time…
Happy Reading! x