Why Libraries Deserve to be Loved
Just over a year ago, Scottish Book Trust ran a Love Letter to Libraries campaign during Book Week Scotland. Some of the letters that the campaign inspired were poetic, some political and all were very personal. Most people have a story to tell about their own relationship with a library – what it meant to them as a child, what they value and what they need. These stories usually show how libraries support us at various points on our journeys through life, how they give us the power to become the people we want to be. Libraries also represent a shared value; that access to information, knowledge and creativity—the genius of mankind—is an empowering and enriching human right that benefits individuals and communities.
Access to information, knowledge and creativity is an empowering and enriching human right that benefits individuals and communities
That value has been with us since the Public Libraries Act in 1850 and has remained steadfast through political and economic changes. Libraries have offered that equality of access quietly, steadily, in the background for millions of people. They offer shelter and possibility when the storms of life are in full force. There are times when they are distant in our lives, but we can always be sure they are there in the background waiting for us to return, like lighthouses for the mind.
In Scotland, we have developed a strategy for public libraries. As someone who was heavily involved in this work, I am (perhaps too) acutely aware that we cannot take for granted that everyone understands or shares the values behind the existence of the public library service. We need to advocate, demonstrate and showcase the work, activity and life-affirming presence of these services. Too many policy decision makers aren’t library customers and the personal benefits they might have felt from libraries have been shelved in the book stacks of their minds.
National Libraries Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate these beacons of learning, empowerment and sharing
National Libraries Day on the 6 February is an opportunity for us all to reflect, remember, take part and celebrate these beacons of reading, empowerment, learning and sharing. This Saturday, libraries across Scotland will be shouting about the new Scottish Government campaign, Read, Write, Count. Read, Write, Count is a new book-gifting programme being developed by Scottish Book Trust and Education Scotland to support literacy and numeracy skills in primary age children. Story times and activities are taking place in libraries, demonstrating their key role in supporting early learning at the heart of communities.
Ahead of Saturday’s celebrations, I have been revisiting some of the love letters from authors. What strikes me most is how for so many of them, their public library empowered and inspired them to be masters of their own destiny. They passionately believe that life-changing privilege should continue be universally available for generations to come, and, of course, we agree.
To find out how you can do that for your library visit: cilips.org.uk/national-libraries-day-2016.