Tomorrow is National Libraries Day, the day we celebrate those vital hubs of information, knowledge and community.
Why is this day so important?
The latest figures show that there were 265 million visits to public libraries over the last year, which although down from the previous year due to staff cuts and library closures, still makes the library the most visited place in the UK. That’s right, the most visited place! This means that going to the library was more popular than going to football matches, church, and even the cinema! Yet all over the UK, councils are slashing library budgets and closing branches with no consideration of the long term effects this will have on the country.
“These figures highlight the inevitable result of the Government’s lack of joined-up policy for maintaining and improving the nation’s public libraries.
As we have proven time and time again, libraries deliver. They help people build their skills and confidence, bring communities together and deliver real-terms savings across a wide range of Council and health services. Libraries support schools and education, build local economies and get people online in a safe, supported environment. If usage is in decline, it is because people are being denied access to a quality library service, not because the demand isn’t there.
If the current picture continues to go unchecked, the impact will be felt by millions of people who have fewer chances to read, to meet and to learn.”
As teachers, you will be aware that schools and public libraries often work together through initiatives such as the Summer Reading Challenge, homework and game clubs, author events, topic boxes and book loans for schools, student volunteer schemes, and increasingly with the local library branch actually serving as the school library.
How can I celebrate National Libraries Day 2016?
- Join your local library (if you haven’t already done so)
- Read a book celebrating the joy of reading – Anthony Browne’s new book Willy’s Stories is a great one. Every time Willy walks through the library doors he is transported into an exciting new adventure. Can you guess which story he is in?
- Attend an event – author and illustrator Chris Riddell will be at the Jubilee Library on Saturday!
- Check out the blog from The Reading Agency on why all we need libraries
- Have a look at the great initiative #libraryletters and encourage your class to write their own letters(you can read my own letter here)
Unfortunately there is a tendency for people to feel that libraries are no longer needed in the digital age, but this is often based on the belief that libraries are only about books. Actually, libraries have always been about democratic access to information, in whatever format this may be. In the same way that public parks were created in the 19th century to provide all citizens with free access to fresh air and leisure, public libraries were built so that every person, regardless of wealth or class had the same access to information, whether this be through books, newspapers, government documents or increasingly through internet access. I’ll end with just one more fact – there has been more information produced in the last two years than in the entire history of the world. If you placed this information on CDs, you would have 5 separate stacks all reaching up to the moon! So if you think of the library in terms of an organisation that collects, preserves*, stores, organises, promotes and enables access to information, then libraries are needed now more than ever.
*A great example of this is the British Library’s huge project to archive UK websites so that they can still be accessed long after they have become inactive and lost.