I love the word serendipity. It has a lovely meaning and a great sound.
This post, I think, can be thought of as being a case of serendipity.
I was planning a post about the joy of libraries for some time and then read Mike’s wonderful article from Sri Lanka about renovating the school library, which confirmed to me I should go ahead with this now.
Libraries are one of the most important cornerstones of our culture and, I feel, of civilisation.
You are probably aware of the major campaigns, still ongoing, to defend the library service throughout the country, which are supported by a wide range of people and not just authors who admittedly have a vested interest (though for once I’d argue that’s no bad thing).
Library: a lifeline
The joy of libraries, I think, is in their versatility. Books can be borrowed in most formats, as can magazines. CDs and DVDs can be borrowed too.
Libraries are a meeting place for, amongst others, writing and reading groups.
I remember visiting my local library (Lordshill in Southampton) after I left college when, sadly, I was unemployed for a while.
The library was a lifeline in terms of entertainment (borrowing books is cheap!) but also for looking for work. I had access to the papers with their job listings for one thing (we never took a paper at home).
That is still part of a library’s role now though with the advent of the internet, the use of social media in job seeking shouldn’t be underestimated and again the libraries can provide access here.
Libraries go back centuries and were first used to store government papers.
The ancient Egyptians needed somewhere to store their clay tablets. Some of these tablets have been found dating back to over 2000 years BC.
Our earliest stories were kept in libraries – the Epic of Gilgamesh being one example.
We even have a name for a very early Chinese librarian – Laozi（老子）was a philosopher working during the time of the Imperial Zhou dynasty (about 1046 BC to 256 BC). (Though all Terry Pratchett fans will know his Librarian doesn’t speak Chinese or even English, merely orangutan!).
Private, personal libraries started appearing in Greece much later on in and around 5 BC. During Emperor Augustus’s time there were public libraries in the Roman Forum.
I wonder if records of the census described in Luke’s Gospel were kept here? Monasteries throughout the Christian world held what we would know as libraries.
Libraries in Britain didn’t really take off until the 19th century with the increase in commercial/secular literature.
As working conditions began to improve, schools started to appear with the resulting increase in literary, lending libraries and “penny dreadfuls” took off in a huge way.
Penny dreadfuls were very cheaply produced books and generally dismissed as cheap fodder for the masses. This was true but it also meant people were reading for the first time (especially for pleasure, that was new).
King George III: avid collector of books
King George III is sadly best remembered for his fits of madness and for losing the American colonies but there is one aspect of his life that does deserve to be commemorated more.
King George III was an avid collector of books, amongst other things, and he bequeathed these to the nation. They formed the basis of the British Library who still house his books in a glass tower known appropriately as the King’s Library Tower.
Sir Hans Sloane
Sir Hans Sloane was one of the founders of the Museum and left a considerable number of books and papers himself but the King’s contribution significantly increased the Museum’s contents (and of course would have conferred status upon it, something I’m sure which would not have been overlooked).
Libraries are an invaluable research source and encourage knowledge.
Library? Discovery Centre?
We are lucky here in that we can access libraries easily, not just here in Chandler’s Ford, but in Winchester, Eastleigh, Southampton and Romsey. (Though I’m still not keen on Winchester’s library being described as a Discovery Centre. All libraries are discovery centres. Let’s just call them libraries, it’s simpler for one thing and rebranding isn’t needed!).
For all the problems facing our libraries, which should not be underestimated, it really is harder where there’s none. Mike’s recent article shows that only too well. I see any reductions in library services as backward steps.
“Why do we even need libraries anymore?”
— B’ham Public Library (@bpl) August 25, 2015
I recently saw a wonderful cartoon by Chris OBrion where a character stands in front of a library building and asks “Why do we even need libraries anymore?”.
Libraries hold literacy classes, give youngsters somewhere to go helping to keep them out of trouble, help with job seeking, provide entertainment, support local authors, support local groups, encourage and improve literacy and as a result improve standards of education.
It was a lot to get across in a cartoon but I thought it was done well.
And another great joy of libraries is they generally cover all tastes.
My family had a friend, sadly no longer here, who couldn’t understand fiction at all yet he spent hours at Eastleigh Library in particular, relishing their non-fiction works. And given there is such a wide range of fiction, libraries also cover the genres well.
The age range covered by libraries is also good – everything from 0 to 100 can find something they’d like in a library and I cannot think of another public institution where that claim can be made. (You try reading a book in a swimming pool, the other place I can think of where all ages meet!).
Let’s use our library more
So what to do? Use our libraries. And hope Hampshire County Council had good feedback on the recent Strategy Review with a clear message to not cut the library services.
My aim is to use our library more and, hopefully one day, visit at least some of the beautiful libraries pictured here. It’s a good thing to aim for.
And while our local libraries can’t meet the same standards of beauty as the libraries portrayed here, they are our libraries, our treasure houses of books and other reference materials.
Chandler’s Ford Library: Grade II listed building status
In 2015 Chandler’s Ford Library was awarded Grade II listed building status.
Chandler’s Ford Library was designed and built in 1981-2 by the County Architect, Colin Stansfield Smith, with project architect Barry Bryant and engineers Anthony Hunt and Associates; it opened in May 1983.
I very much hope this award strengthens Chandler’s Ford Library in terms of its ability to survive.
Long live the libraries!
- Hampshire County Library Strategy: Needs Your Views
- Meet the Author Claire Fuller at Chandler’s Ford Library
- Journey to Sri Lanka: Creating a Local Library for 1,000 Girls
- Hampshire Library Consultation: Have your Say
- 10 Wishes for Chandler’s Ford for 2016
- A Talk by Martin Napier at Chandler’s Ford Library: Growing up in Chandler’s Ford in the 1950s and 1960s
- An Interactive Local History Talk by Martin Napier
- Richard Hardie’s Book Writing Fun at Chandler’s Ford Library
- Richard Hardie: “So You Want to be an Author?”
- Fantasy Books by Richard Hardie: Now in Chandler’s Ford Library
- Chandler’s Ford Library: 30th Happy Birthday!
- Does Spelling Matter? Notes On Chandler’s Ford Library. – Chandler’s Ford Today
- Top 10 Reasons to Love Books
- Three Things I Love about Chandler’s Ford
- Ignite Your 2016 with the Best of Chandler’s Ford Today 2015
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