I’m sitting in a library (one of my favourite places) waiting for some librarians (some of my favourite people.) It is a community library – a new one. The colours are bright, sun streams in through the big clerestory windows. There is the sound of books being shuffled into shelves ahead of school closing and the upsurge of readers beginning. (We hope.)
But how to get them here? For me as a child, it used to be more difficult. The library used to be far and the road there long. Now there is a library right here in the heart of the life of this village. This is surely easier, but will they come? Will the children come?
I think we have to accept that times have changed immeasurably from fifty … twenty … ten … even five years ago. Nothing is the same as it was, and that includes books, reading and even children. I have noticed that the people who moan (often beginning their sentences with variations of the words ‘in my day’), haven’t noticed the changing times. They want everything to be the way it was, without remembering properly what that way was really like.
I’m still in the library. A workshop is going on (one I am giving for teacher librarians and teachers). Teenagers are working quietly (well, fairly quietly) at nearby tables. A couple of young mothers are looking at magazines featuring babies. An older boy is thoughtfully looking for something on the internet. A few small children are giggling at a picture book on a brightly coloured mat.
I wonder, what has really changed? There is information here in this room, and stories to lose yourself in. There are stories to share and laugh about. There are newspapers and magazines and a quiet place for people who have nowhere else to go. There are helpful people to answer questions. There may be more screens involved, but the pages are still there. Everything that appears on the much-feared by book people Internet has to be read – and has to be written by somebody.
And the shelves are still full of books. Long live libraries!