Closing soon: space time continuum

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I was sorry to see that East Sussex County Council is “consulting” on a plan to close seven out of its 24 libraries. Rye is not on the list – yet. Those under threat are Langney, Mayfield, Ore, Pevensey Bay, Polegate, Ringmer and Willingdon.

I understand that councils have a lot of difficult spending decisions to make and things aren’t getting any easier. But for me the prospect of library closures is horrible. Even now, in my 40s, I am in the library most weeks, browsing around, picking up a book I haven’t heard of or aren’t sure about. I could pick up a classic Russian novel, a biography, a history book or something left on the recent returns shelf that I would never think of buying. I have found many new friends there, CJ Sansom, Alison Weir, Jo Nesbo and many more – all I met originally at the library.

As an adult I can probably manage without a library – though I wouldn’t want to. But I can’t imagine being a child without a library. I was lucky as I grew up in a house with books. But I was reading 10-15 books a week throughout my teens and earlier – we didn’t have that many. Instead, I relied heavily on my local library. I would commandeer the library tickets from the rest of my family and take out as many books as I could carry each week.

One of the many wonderful things about a library is it becomes a home from home, a safe place from which you can explore. Once you have read all the books that are in your age-appropriate category, then you have all the others in front of you. I remember very well starting to read Agatha Christie when I was about 10. It was a wonderful year or so, indulging in fresh multiple murders. Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and many more followed.

Because of books and very much due to libraries, I have travelled around this world and many others. I have gone back and forward in time. I have talked to animals and aliens, I have hung out with peasants and princesses, I have looked over the shoulders of mass murderers and watched as heroes have saved the human race. Its a gift I will never stop benefiting from. I can close my eyes and watch as armoured bears run out in front of me for example.

I know that there are other ways of reading now. But only a few ebooks are available free of charge. And how could anyone get the full effect of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak on a Kindle? In a library you can browse properly, pick up books, flick them open in the middle, see how the text flows, whether the page lies flat, look at the pictures. You can see from the book itself how popular it has been, how many people have been before you. You can see its brothers and sisters on the shelf.

If you look a little further, you can learn how to cook, how to speak Russian, read the Koran, understand the tenets of western (or eastern) philosophy and diagnose your anti-social symptoms.

I feel sorry for those communities who will lose their local libraries. The council says that all current library users will be within a 20-minute drive of another library even if all the proposed closures are made. That doesn’t seem a long way. But a child can’t drive any distance at all. And a 20-minute drive each way is something you have to think about and schedule. It isn’t regular. It isn’t part of your everyday routine.

 

 

Image Credits: Rye News library .

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5 COMMENTS

  1. It would be a sad day if Rye Library is closed. It’s a lovely space with a huge selection of books plus computers, magazines and local interest publications which you can browse through in a separate, quiet room.

    If you’re looking for a particular book library staff will trawl other Sussex libraries to find it for you. You can easily renew your books on line or use the two machines in the library for borrowing, renewal etc. There are many books with large print available as well.

    Nothing beats a real book and with the price of paperbacks increasing all the time the library is a wonderful place for avid readers to enjoy up to date literature without spending a fortune.

  2. Coming from a poor working class background with few books, I was able to spend a great deal of my childhood in libraries. It was part of my education. With cuts in so many social projects, places where people can come and browse and inform themselves in so many ways are even more vital. Any decent society should value these institutions.

  3. On the last of my fairly frequent visits to Rye Library (only five minutes away!) I naturally picked up a copy of the ‘Our Proposals’ document, but now having studied all its 12 pages…Yes ! 12 !!!…I am horrified at yet another waste of our money ! What did the planning, compilation, & printing etc. cost ?!! The same message could have been put across perfectly effectively on a single sheet set up by a couple of senior clerks, and made available to us comparative few who’ll read it & respond, all at a tiny fraction of what this exercise will cost in total !!

    I will, of course, dutifully hand in my copy complete with these critical remarks clearly set out on page 9, with my name etc., and then patiently await a personal response from the ESCC Cabinet in March 2018 !!!!!

  4. We were also taken aback at the size of the questionnaire and its associated costs, particularly as we suspect this is just a “box ticking” exercise and they have already decided on the closures despite any protests from the Council Tax paying public.

  5. East Sussex County Council and Rother District Council councillors are merely passing on cuts in libraries, policing, social care, public transport, etc. demanded by their, mostly, fellow Conservatives in the Government which, amazingly, after seven years of increasing austerity, still receives sufficient votes to form a government, albeit last time by handing the DUP £1bn from the magic money tree.
    These people are responsible for the shameful third world conditions endured by our residents.

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