On Friday, I learnt that my little local library in Haydon Bridge has been earmarked for closure. I have become involved in the fight to save it.
Northumberland County Council appear on the face of it to be ignoring the Culture Minister's plea to consult local communiities before making firm decisions. Members of the local parish council were only told on Monday about an important stakeholder meeting to decide in principle the future of the library system. This isbreathtaking arrogance. Because only weeks ago, they lost a court case about the way they consulted over the proposed move to the three tier system. The public meeting is supposidly going to be held in the middle of school holidays -- grr.
My local library serves the elderly, the disabled and the young families in the village. Many of them do not have private transport to take them to Hexham for the main Tynedale library. It provides a vital lifeline for some people. The building was purpose built by fund raised through the Shaftoe Trust and other parts of the community, because the village desired a library. When my children were little and we only had one car, it served as a lifeline to sanity for me. We would go and get books at least one a week. When I became serious about writing, it is where I went to read Mills and Boon. I still use it for research and my children often stop in on the way home from school. The schoolbus drops them off outside the library.
Like many services, libraries are something we tend to take for granted. Yet they are as vital today as they were when William Ewart and Andrew Carnegie along with other Victorian philanthropists first founded the public library movement. For Carnegie, the library provided the vital knowledge that enabled him to go from bobbin boy to wealthiest man in the world. He endowed the branch libraries because he wanted to get books where they were needed most.
It says something not very nice about a soicety when they start closing libraries.
Luckily everyone in the village that I have spoken to, thus far feels as strongly as I do. This is something that must be fought. It will mean a decrease in a major service with NO decrease in the tax we pay. The bulding is sound, disable accessiable in a way none of the larger libraries are. It also has free internet access for those who wish to use and a highly knowledgible librarian. The County Council is on a cost cutting mission, and it should look elsewhere to find money.
Libraries are the cornerstone of life-long learning and should be treated as such.