Libraries are a bit like the local cafe – great places to pop into, refresh yourself, watch the world go by. You might not frequent them every day but it’s a comfort to know they’re there – offering a welcoming space, improving the quality of your life, introducing you to new and old friends. Some consider them both to be a bit of an anachronism – you can find everything you need to know online, pick up a coffee at Starbucks.
Who needs a library? Well, I think as many people as need the cafe. And yet everywhere you look, libraries are being closed or threatened with closure. All that knowledge and expertise gone. Will they be missed? Isn’t it all online? Well, some of it is but by no means all. And a lot of it is transitory – things disappear from the internet; new governments close previous government’s websites; things published online disappear when their originators move on or close; old material is superseded.
Several national child care charities have closed their libraries in recent years. Here at NCB we still have our library and information service – over forty years’ worth of knowledge reflecting the old and the new. Classic texts including Mia Kellmer Pringle and Barbara Kahan; new titles covering old subjects – the effects of poverty on children, children’s experience of the care system, the education of young offenders; journal titles covering mental health, social welfare, crime and anything and everything relating to children and young people. There is no other collection like it.
A good library holds on to its material; a fair and inclusive society should hold on to its libraries. There are countless blogs debating the future of our libraries (the good library blog, Mumsnet). Mostly they argue that libraries are a good thing. Not many can say exactly why with any scientific precision, but all acknowledge that they are part of our living culture, our history and our future. They are the founders of our information society and as such deserve to be valued and supported.