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Why we need libraries!

Low literacy levels

A new Ofsted report has been published reporting that literacy in England has stalled and is being overtaken by other leading nations. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17368311

The Chief Schools Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw commented further that ‘reading standards had not improved since 2005’.

With one in five children not being able to read at the expected level of literacy when they leave primary school, it seems worrying that councils up and down the country are being forced to close libraries – the one place that provides free books. The amount and diversity of books for children are vast within libraries, not to mention the focus on improving literacy with countless easy readers, encouraging children to improve their reading.

Libraries are welcoming places with many of them providing (and looking to provide) homework help sessions to encourage children to do the best that they are able on the homework they are set.

More needs to be done to encourage borrowing of books and in the encouragement of young children to read. I believe that this must be done in various spheres, at school as well as at home, and within the libraries themselves.

Libraries provide people from all walks of life the opportunity to gain access to free books, on all sorts of subjects from crime and thriller to family saga in fiction, and from keeping bees to the Dam Busters in non-fiction. They provide people with free networking spaces to chat with like-minded borrowers and librarians over all things books.

But more than just books…..

Employment services                  

Local libraries provide employment services for the growing number of the unemployed seeking work. You do not have to go far to see the devastation of the economic downturn on people’s lives. There are countless news stories – most of which do not make the headline news – over companies who have no choice but to let people go, making them redundant. And you do not have to go far to see the effect this is having on those desperate to work. Many people have been unemployed for several months or more, people spend day after day looking at job adverts on the internet and sending out application after application, and often hearing nothing back. This is demoralising to those eager to work. Employment services at local libraries do more than check up on your progress. They get to know you. And they understand the difficulties that the unemployed are currently facing and they help to boost confidence and morale during the job hunting process.

All this at your local library.

The welcoming environment of a local public library, the staff and the access to the internet, all contribute to an excellent place for people to come to seek help when unemployed.

Furthermore, with access to the internet at libraries, people are able to search through online job adverts, create a CV using online CV generators, research the companies advertising the positions of interest, and complete online applications. Internet and libraries enable the job hunting process to be more effective and efficient. With more and more job adverts going onto the internet, this is making internet access crucial in finding and securing a job, and it is at libraries where access to the internet is available to all.

Community support

People who use libraries on a local basis, generally do not come just to borrow a book and disappear immediately only returning on the due date stamped in the front. They stay. They chat. They catch up on the local gossip and learn about local concerns and local events going on in their area.

For some, the homeless, those with mental health problems, the elderly living alone, it is sometimes only at their local libraries where they make contact and converse with other people. Their ilbrary provides them with a lifeline.

The library services hold no discrimination– everyone is welcome and welcome to stay for however long they wish (till closing time of course).

Libraries are a free community space, where local people can gather to learn and exchange news, and to feel a part of their local communities. With post offices being closed, as well as town halls, the library is now, for some, the only place left to come to and socialise for free, in a warm and welcoming environment.

Community support also impacts upon young children. Mother and toddler groups (or father and toddler of course) are common in various local libraries up and down the country. Here mothers (and fathers) have the opportunity to socialise with other parents and their children get to interact with other children, singing songs and reading stories together. With interest in libraries from a young age they are more likely to feel comfortable entering a library and maintain the interest and excitement that can come from reading a story. The following quote which I read on http://savedoncasterlibraries.wordpress.com sums up nicely how I feel:

“I have yet to meet the tiny tot who doesn’t enjoy sitting with a grown up and turning the magical pages of a book. “For many children the library is the only place they will ever be physically engaged with all the possibilities there are on the shelves. “That is why many small children’s activities are based in library buildings, a resource not to be found or replicated anywhere else. “Having a space where the sole purpose is to engage with words and pictures, to create memories that last a lifetime, is a delight and not to be given away lightly.” (Ann Chambers, deputy chief executive of Howgill Family Centre)

Race online

The UN has declared that the access to internet is a human right. But everyone doesn’t have access to the internet. Central and local government have issued a ‘Race Online’ initiative to get people onto and familiar with the internet. Libraries offer online access for all and is often free.

The internet holds the door open to job applications (as already discussed), researching your family tree (the popularity of which is increasing), to forms of communication, research, fun and information. The possibilities of the internet are endless. Many libraries offer online subscriptions for free – including Ancestry, The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, newspaper archives and other family history tools, to name a few from many.

Local knowledge

Libraries are a-gleam with local knowledge. With knowledgeable librarians who are willing to go the extra mile to find out information that they do not know, and with access to local papers, the internet, electoral rolls…books on the local history of the town or village…. to bus and train timetables, people are able to find out local information from their local or central library.

People also find out local information by talking to other local people who frequent the library, again highlighting the social place that libraries are.


All libraries provide at least some of the following, fax, photocopying, local and national newspapers, microfiche, printing, access to the electoral roll, games, DVDs, music CDs….

There are many, many good reasons why libraries should remain open and user friendly (not resorting to cost-cutting measures by installing self-service machines) for everyone’s peace of mind and enjoyment.

So please support your libraries, local and central, and use them, before it is too late. Save your library by using it.

You can join in on the fight for libraries campaign, from The Bookseller, which provides a focal point for campaigners, librarians and the rest of the trade. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter.


And join in on the campaign of your local areas to save your library, such as Doncaster’s


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