I have loved books and reading for as long as I can remember. I was thinking about libraries the other day and I realised that I use libraries less now than ever before in my life. The reasons are the same as they are for everybody else –

I can now look things up myself on my phone, ipad and laptop using the mighty Google.

I can now buy second-hand books in charity shops for as little as 50 pence and also very cheaply online and often postage free.

New books, too, are extremely affordable when bought in supermarkets or online.

I can also buy e-books and read them on any of my electronic devices. (I don’t, because I still prefer books, but I could.)

It’s no wonder that libraries and independent bookshops are closing in Britain.

All through my childhood, teens, twenties and thirties, being a member of a library was very important to me. Wherever I lived, I joined a library, sometimes being a member of more than one at a time.

As a child in the 1950s, we went to the library whenever we were in the nearby town which was five miles away. Below is a picture of the building it was in – taken a bit before the 1950s! When I lived in that area the building housed the library , the Labour Exchange and my dad’s office – he worked for the Forestry Commission. Although there was no library in our village (it was tiny) there was a lady who lived in a little house next to a chapel who ran a small book lending system from her front room. The main library used to drop new books off with her every so often.


What I remember about libraries in the old days (even though I loved them) is how quiet and serious they were. You absolutely did not make a noise of any sort or you would be told off. I loved them because I love books and reading but I can see how someone less committed to reading could have been put off by the interior of a library.

Library 1  Library 2

Above – the interiors of a couple of old libraries. The pictures can’t convey the deathly hush which prevailed!

library files      library book

The pre-digital way of book-lending.

I have no recollection of ever being asked to do any independent research for homework when I was in school – not even when studying for A-levels. Lessons were all based on notes dictated by the teacher then and on learning by rote – but that’s another blog post! While I was at university I preferred to do most of my work in the university library. This was partly so that I could use the reference books but also because the atmosphere was more conducive to study than a cold, gloomy student rented house.

Libraries now often have art or history exhibitions running, they have computers the public can use, they are bright, friendly and welcoming. The children’s sections have toys and games and regular organised activities. Yet libraries are still closing all over the country. Where they have been saved and continue to function, they are often rehoused in a smaller space in a new building. The one shown below is a Victorian library building near where I used to work. In spite of a well-fought campaign to keep it open, it was closed over ten years ago. I believe it now houses offices so at least it isn’t empty or worse – demolished. The new library which replaced it is in a modern purpose built community centre. Public lending libraries began here in Britain in the 1850s, the main pioneer being William Ewart. Since 2010, nearly 500 libraries  have closed in England, Wales and Scotland. Some libraries facing closure have been taken over by volunteers.

normy library

Finally, a nice little tale of recycling!

The iconic red telephone boxes found all over the UK are beginning to disappear but, thanks to a BT scheme called Adopt a Kiosk, many unused payphone kiosks have been transformed into libraries. This preserves the heritage of the red kiosk, particularly in rural locations and provides a library service in areas which lack one. Most of these libraries are left unlocked and are stocked by donations from local people. Anyone is free to borrow a book and donate a used book.

220px-Phone_box_library,_Whitwell,_IW,_UK    517d1d84e2bd9ff5150f1d852f0822bb--telephone-booth-free-library telephone-library-1

reading and And now, a few quotes about libraries:

Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while. —Malorie Blackman

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation. —Walter Cronkite

Libraries will get you through times with no money better than money will get you through times with no libraries. Anne Herbert.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. —Joseph Addison

As usual, I would like to say that all images and facts used in this post have been gleaned from the Internet and are readily available. However, if anyone objects to anything in this post, for any reason, please contact me directly so that I can remove it.

18 thoughts on “Libraries

  1. The deathly quiet true. At 81..i still use actual books..and we retrieve books on history/cultural ways of living..from the boxes stored in our 3 story barn. The farm is 107 years old..and so.. our ‘lending library’..keeps us going..and many friends..who suddenly need a book on..this or that. We go dig..and usually voila. Same with the cooking the kitchen..over 100 books in it..from the last 3 generations. I know how handy..the ebooks and modern tech. tools must be..but my heart and soul..need to feel pages..and bindings. Enjoy the old notes..written in margins. To hold the actual printed volumes.. If one..does not cherish..original my opinion..are slowly..dragging a small spatula..across their inner braincase..and..making little ‘debis heaps’..of their myriad..neurons. Underused..they will time. I want my mental tissues to be ..usable..until the day I drop. I do NOT..want my abilitys to..reside in a tech tool. Power goes down, cell towers fail..and where am I? In charge..hiking in my wellys..with a flint and steel, a tent..setting up..a holding..near some surviving trees. A water source. I actually..from some long ago reading..try going..without my proper jacketing..on a fiercely cold day..for half an hour..just to..condition myself..should all hell break loose. I will walk the mud..much to the amusement of my neighbors..who may see me. Maybe only 15 min. but..I am letting my as to be..ready. An inner urban orchid..god NO! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a fascinating comment! I wish I lived near your barn full of books. Sounds like heaven to me! Well done for preparing for life without technology. We should all do it! You set a great example. We could all learn from you! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Meryl. Hope everyone’s well ! Keep up the good work.

    May I put in a plea for libraries themselves ? Like you I buy books from a variety of sources, in fact, too many if I’m utterly honest about it ! I’ve started donating books I’ve read and have no further use for to my local library ( Penistone ), both paperbacks and “hard backs”. The only criteria they appear to apply is that they are clean and of reasonable appearance. Yes, I know, I know, it’s so hard to let them go as I ‘m a natural hoarder when it comes to books. I gain comfort from the fact of simply having them there , occasionally removing them from one of too many bookcases I have scattered around and flicking through their pages. There are far too many I’ve not even read yet, but that’s another story ! If I’ve any possible future use for them ( usually a very thin excuse I confess ) I keep them, but for those I pass on I think of the benefit and joy I’ve experienced and sit there, bathed in a self righteous glow, thinking of others who will now enjoy them . But seriously, in what appears to be hard times for our Local Authorities , if this in any way helps their reduced budgets and keeps going the institutions I drew benefit and happiness from throughout the years , and in many different places too, then I’m happy.

    I also “impose books” on friends and colleagues ( the ” Oh, you must read this ” approach ) which also helps to keep the accumulation threat at bay . Having identified an addict you can keep them topped up on a regular basis !! One thing I have noticed is the difficulty in recruiting the “young ” into this process as they all seem to rely on technology. All best, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi John. Thanks for commenting! What a great idea. I have never thought of donating to a library. I usually (when I can persuade myself to part with any!) give them to charity shops. I know, because I work in one, that reference books e.g. bird books don’t really shift in our local charity shops and I fear that many get chucked. I will donate to a library in future!
      You keep up the good work too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I, too, remember when getting a library card so that I could check out books was an essential part of my life. I actually liked the deathly hush, so that I could have the sense of being alone with all those books softly beckoning to me, Choose me, choose me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t been in a library in years – not because I don’t like them (I do) but because my immune system isn’t great and that’s one place where I most often have caught things! I hadn’t realised so many were closing. The reason independant bookshops – even ones with an online presence – are closing is mostly because they can’t keep up with Amazon.

    I have my dad talking on tape from a few years before he died, and one of the parts I most enjoy is when he was saying how he and his friends (in the 1930s, probably) used to go to the library to study and do their homework (and, I think, meet girls!) So… even though things are changing now, there was a continuum of enjoyment of libraries for a long, long time before.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Converting the telephone kiosks into little book exchanges is a stroke of genius. Recently I’ve dome a couple of major purges on my bookcases and taken the ones that weren’t too shabby to op shops. When I was young I found the local library terrifying, even though I used it a lot. The librarians were all so grumpy! Librarians have changed along with libraries, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Our big Central Library here in Wellington was a lively hub, with over 3000 visitors a day. There was a quiet floor upstairs where students worked. It closed suddenly because an engineering report found it might be an earthquake risk, and will remain closed for an indefinite period. That doesn’t leave us library-less. There is a number of suburban branch libraries where books from the Central collection can be borrowed or dropped off. Even so, the closure came as a shock – particularly as it’s a comparatively new building.

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