Thursday, March 21, 2019

Thursday Thoughts...

“But I know that I would never have seen a single university library if I had not grown up living a hundred yards from that library in Willesden Green. Local libraries are gateways - not only to other libraries but to other lives”. 

Zadie Smith

In times of economic rationalism and austerity and whatever other argument is at play to reduce access for all, to access only for those who can pay; public libraries are at great risk, yet their value is immeasurable.

I mean that. You literally can't put a figure on the value of a public library. You can try to quantify the benefits, argue this or that, but thinking about Zadie Smith's words, there is no accounting scheme anywhere in the world that could quantify the benefit to the economy for starters, but also to an individual (Zadie) and the myriads of people all over the world who have read her books, of her having access to that local public library. No accounting package could handle all of that.

The positives of libraries aren't always immediate or contained within their local area.  But their impact is definitely local and quantitatively you could analyse heaps of positive stories - from mums and bubs reading sessions, to school holiday activities; to exposure for artists; to safe havens for folk to sit quietly and read the newspaper; to the mobile library services; to providing spaces for groups to meet, to seniors learning how to use the latest technology; to free access to the internet; to just plain reading and getting educated!

Perhaps because a gateway is open, and things flow back and forth through it time and again, and what goes in one and and pops out the other end or recirculates is just too hard to measure or keep track of. But we know it as a truth. Libraries matter.

Edinburgh Public Library - for the Love of Books x


  1. (((Fiona))) such a beautiful post, we are blessed with such great libraries here in Australia but in these weird crunchy times we need to look after them!

    1. Mo sorry for my late reply. I endorse your library support wholeheartedly! I get most antsy when folk start messing about with libraries and their funding! Go well.

  2. Take nothing for granted ... a lesson learned over and over again in these near-dystopian times.

    So what should we make of university libraries that move their collections off-site into more efficient storage facilities? What would happen if the online catalogs to all those collections were hacked? It's a notion that never occurred to me before, but now I wonder ... perhaps this is why I have long had a visceral apprehension about moving books out of publicly accessible shelving.

    1. Hi Liz sorry for my late reply. You have it nailed with take nothing for granted - up is down down is up...
      There are troubles with Brexit and online catalogues - apparently key resources will be deleted if they leave the EU because its the EU legislation which allow libraries to host archives without the express permission of every author involved - eg joint journal articles. I can't bear that thought but it seems almost real. I like seeing and touching books I must say- a real sense of solidity.


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.