“Libraries are not an indulgence. They can have a transformative power – especially for those marginalized, disenfranchised, alone, or simply open a world of stories and imagination to readers young and old.” Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive, Harrogate International Festivals.
- A significant proportion of the population (23% according to national statistics) does not have an internet connection at home. Those people most in need are precisely those without an ebook or the internet e.g. unemployed, those on low incomes, senior citizen. Libraries offeronline and access for all, often free. The United Nations has declared that internet access is a human right – public libraries uphold that right. In addition, using the internet means one can take advantage of special offers (e.g. comparison websites) meaning that by not allowing libraries and thus free internet access, the poor are being forced to pay more while the wealthier can pay less.
“If people can’t get to a library, or they’re put off by how they’re taught, they won’t make the step to using digital services”. Bevan Foundation . One third of households in Wales may not have easy online access and thus will miss out on online-only government services.
- For all but the very wealthy, public libraries are great value for money – “In under 2 years if we had bought all the books we borrowed from the library we would have spent an estimated £3400, this works out roughly as a book habit of £150 a month, definitely not something we could afford.Our young son is the biggest user of the library in terms of number of books he borrow. I think having such a wealth and variety of books is a huge benefit in terms of his development, use of imagination, his language skills etc. Not something you can add a value to.”
- During times of recession, libraries are a great way of saving money by meaning one can take out DVDs/Games cheaper, read newspapers, use wifi, internet, free community space.
- Similarly, libraries offer word-processing, printing, photocopying and fax.
- Many people on low incomes or mental health problems use the library as there is nowhere else to go. Ironically, this is sometimes used informally as a reason against public libraries while others argue against libraries as being too Middle Class.
- They’re about the public good, equitable access for all members of society to public domain information of all kinds and in all formats, an appropriate balance within the law between demands from information users, and the need to respect confidentiality.
- Libraries improve the neighbourhood and increase house values.
“Morris Cohen, aged 90, spoke in favour of Neasden Library. He said: “Elderly people use it as a home not just a library.”Neasden used to be a no-go area but the library has been a positive influence, it will deteriorate if you close it.” (Harrow Observer)
- The library is often the only place where the user can talk to others. This goes directly against the stereotype of public libraries as quiet places. One user of the library where the author works has said that he would kill himself if the library closed down as there would be nothing else for him to do and no-one else he could talk to.
“But principally they are about people. People with a curiosity about life and the world around them. People who want to learn or escape into literary fantasy, people who like to meet. People who fall in love. To hack away at anything which is principally about people always seems especially harsh and counter-productive to me.” (Anne Pickles, News & Star)
- Libraries are a free community space otherwise rare on the High Street. This is especially the case in small communities where, unfortunately, they are currently most under threat of closure. A 2010 article Public libraries as impartial spaces in a consumer society: possible, plausible, desirable? (New Library World) discusses this point comprehensively.
“The government and the council forget that people live in places like Walney. When they close the post offices, the clubs and the libraries, then the local people lose meeting places.” (Sally Whittaker, 97 years old, Cumbria).