Thursday, 9 April 2009

Broomhill library in the rain

"And then there's this place which, for me, is in another league altogether when it comes to instant nostalgia: Broomhill Library, Sheffield, outside which I am standing, in the rain. I gaze at it across the street and, as if by magic, I ache with longing, just as I used to in the days when a trip here was the most enjoyable thing I could possibly imagine: when books were all I wanted, when I thought of them as pieces of ripe fruit, waiting to be peeled and devoured. I have never given up being grateful for the fact that, when I became a reader, so many of these juicy things were so readily available. "

Its taken me a long time - too long - to get round to reading and blogging about Rachel Cooke's article Time to go into battle to save our world of books. Articles about public libraries tend to fall into set categories: the shush sterotype piece, the OMG like the library has computers! piece - and this is firmly in the category of the soft focus, Hovis advert, nostalga for times past article. Rachel is slightly sceptical of the plan to move the libray into a new building with wheelchair ramps, perhaps understandably so as ramps are often a substitute for, rather than a symbol of, real access. She is firmly in the Tim Coates camp that books must be central to libraries and I still feel that this ignores the important point that libraries were about information long before the book appeared and will continue to be if and when the book finally becomes extinct. However this is mere detail. We can and must make use of her central argument:
"Make no mistake, this is a crucial time. If those of us who love books, and libraries, and believe they are a vital, beautiful and cherishable part of our cultural and social heritage, take our eye off the ball now, we will regret it. We must make a fuss, and we must name and shame those who are set on destruction".

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