“Leave the libraries alone, they are too precious to destroy. I love the public library service for what it did for me as a child and as a student and as an adult. I love it because its presence in a town or a city reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight.”
My article published in the Chichester Observer, Thursday 21st January 2016
Laughter and plenty of tea: what really goes on at your local library.
Chichester photographer Rachel Poulton is celebrating National Libraries Day on February 6th with a unique photographic look at what happens in our libraries.
Rachel has put together a series of photographs documenting the community activities local libraries are providing, in a project called Beyond the Books. Her photographs will be on display at Chichester Library from Monday, January 25 to Saturday, January 30; the exhibition then moves to Worthing Library from Monday, February 1st to Saturday, February 13th.
As Rachel suggests, it’s all a timely reminder of the value of our libraries at a difficult time for the library network.
Rachel said: “It is a visual celebration of one of our most vital public resources at a time of dramatic cuts and closures across the country.
“You don’t need money to visit a library and quite often it’s the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society that spend time in these warm and inviting places. There’s no other non-commercial space where people can sit, chat, use computers or read books for free. As one of the few remaining municipal buildings available for public use, people are now visiting libraries not just to borrow but to participate in other social activities. From groups such as Baby Rhyme Time and Knit and Natter, our much-loved public libraries have become social hubs for all ages.
“Members of the Knit and Natter group meet in Chichester library every Thursday morning, and there is a unanimous appreciation of how much they benefit socially and creatively from their community group. They rely heavily on the library for information, borrowing the latest books and meeting up with friends and are passionate about supporting their library by using it. The Knit and Natter group at Witterings library are equally enthusiastic saying they wouldn’t be without their local library.
“The group provides a chance to share skills but also make friends, catch up and support each other through life’s ups and downs. There’s a friendly, encouraging atmosphere with lots of laughter and plenty of tea.
“Baby Rhyme Time is another popular group and many local libraries offer this chance of developing early literacy by introducing infants to the world of books, rhyme and music. Baby Rhyme Time also provides a chance for new mums and dads, grandparents and child minders to come together and share their experiences of looking after little ones.
“Libraries throughout West Sussex provide a vast range of regular activities for individuals and groups.
“There are regular meet-ups to play board games, computer buddy sessions, book clubs, relax with coloring groups, health drop-ins, careers advice, book readings and signings from local authors, afternoon tea clubs and much more. With so much going on you wonder if anyone has time to read but most libraries have at least one book group meeting up regularly to analyse and discuss a shared book.
“Local libraries have a duty to provide free access to books, which connect people to the wonderful wealth of knowledge, ideas and worlds of imagination contained within them.
“But as cornerstones of our communities, libraries are also places for us to connect with others, to support and learn from one another. They are places that welcome everyone, so it is a great chance for everyone to get out there and get involved. It is really worth paying a visit to your local library today, as you just never know what’s going on beyond the books.”