Why we need libraries #LibrariesWeek
Posted on October 7, 2020
For Libraries Week 2020, we wanted to shine a light on some of the reasons why we love libraries so much, why we simply can’t afford to lose them, and what we can all do today to support our local libraries.
We think the best way to celebrate Libraries Week 2020 is choosing to support libraries for a lifetime.
Libraries Going Digital
Though it is an often overlooked part of their service, libraries have been providing digital access to books for years. Over lockdown, this became more important than ever. From 13th March – 14th August 2020, it is estimated that 3.5 million additional ebooks were borrowed from libraries across the U.K, and the borrowing of ebooks and audiobooks was up by 78%.
Gaining access to these books is often as simple as downloading an app. Many libraries across the UK use either Libby or Borrowbox as platforms for users to download ebooks and audiobooks. You just need the number on your library card to start downloading, listening and reading. Both apps are as easy to use as most audio subscription service apps – the only difference is they’re free!
Libraries as platforms
Both library events and the resources found in libraries provide opportunities for development and learning that would otherwise be inaccessible to many, thereby nurturing talent and raising artists and writers. We have libraries to thank for some of our best loved writers, especially here in Manchester!
In his opening message for Black History Month at Manchester Libraries, poet and author Lemn Sissay spoke of the role of libraries in his early career. Between poetry readings, he says: “It was incredibly important for me to have a place to read on stage. My first reading was in a community centre in Moss Side, but my second reading, where I read ‘Black Is’, was at Moss Side library. Libraries are incredibly important to the development of community. When seeking out someone who may be able to tell you more about yourself, the library is the place to go.”
To find more about Manchester Libraries Black History Month Events, visit the Manchester Libraries Blog.
Libraries as safe spaces
The expansion of digital services from libraries has been crucial to maintaining access over lockdown, but we cannot overlook what a library can provide only as a physical space: safety. For many families, libraries are warm, safe spaces, with entertainment for children and resources for adults that may not be available at home.
Authors Kerry Hudson and Jeanette Winterson have both been vocal about the sanctuary of libraries throughout their childhoods. Hudson says of libraries: “When I was little and we shared a room in B&Bs my single-parent mum, living on benefits, had somewhere warm, free and entertaining to take me. And when we suddenly moved to yet another new town with few possessions and no money, there was still always the comforting familiarity of a library, those books that were all my own for a full week.”
Winterson remembers of her own childhood: “We had six books in our house but I had the library. I loved that building – built for the working classes – built for me.”
Libraries represent possibility, community and equal access to many. However, over the last ten years, funding for library services has been cut by more than £250m (26.9%). Now, after an incredibly tough year, some libraries may face more drastic threats to their funding.
How can I support libraries?
- The most simple answer is: use them! Join your library and use the amazing services they offer. Engage with their events and share their news. Download Libby or Borrowbox. Borrow books.
- All three authors mentioned in this blog post have incredible memoirs, so why not start your Libraries Week 2020 celebrations by signing up for a library card and enjoying some of the UK talent that libraries are responsible for, all for free.
- Become a supporter of libraries by signing up to Libraries Deliver, a website designed to connect a network of library lovers and provide information about funding, campaigning and opportunities for fundraising. If you can, there’s also an option to donate through the website.
- Write to your MP. If preserving your local library is important to you, let your MP know. This is important even when there are no cuts planned. It’s crucial that councils and MPs know how valued libraries are, always.