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Now more than ever we need our libraries. There are more than 3,500 of them across the UK; they are much loved and much needed by their users with 226 million visits last year.
My local library was beloved to me as a kid. As a free resource we would regularly visit, I would choose my books and with pride hand over my own card and take my precious cargo home.
My life-long love of reading was born right there.
Things have come a long way in the last few decades although I’m not telling how many! Libraries now cater for, respond to and reflect local needs and are the heart of the community. They bring people together, deliver community cohesion and provide a much-needed safe space for reading and creativity. During this difficult time, their role will change but they still have a vital role to play in our communities.
As Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP (The UK’s library and information association) says:
“Our first priority during the current public health crisis is to ensure the health and wellbeing of library workers and the public. However, we also recognise that libraries are a lifeline to millions of people across the UK, so we have to be clear that just because a building is closed, the library service is not. We are working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and other library organisations to see how we can strengthen and raise awareness of the wide range of digital services available from your local library during a shutdown. These include access to millions of high-quality e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines that can be downloaded to your device as well as a range of activities to keep the kids entertained.
Bromley Libraries ran a ‘virtual RhymeTime’ event earlier this week which included more than 300 participants – more than they could have accommodated in a single library! The best place to start is by using your favourite search engine to find your local library website.”
It is clear that we will use libraries again to be inspired, be creative, attend events, learn new skills, surround ourselves with some great literary masterpieces, and find our next favourite book but in the meantime, search out their digital presence to support your isolation.
Here at LoveReading we celebrate our precious libraries and cheer them on in their mission to support local communities, provide cultural activities and engender that love of reading that we hold so dear here. Each month we choose a library from around the country and share their story, promote their services and celebrate their successes. So do check in to see how these stories develop in the coming months.
The National Literacy Trust says that children who go to a library are twice as likely as those who don’t to read well. It is not just picking up a book. It is the social experience of reading, talking about the books, browsing, comparing what you have read with family and friends. Let's not allow this social distancing stop these conversations or prevent us from sharing stories. We just need to be a little more creative on how we can make it happen.
We’re building a reading corner in our house for this period and will have precious reading time every day for us to dive into a book and close ourselves off from this reality which we’re not enjoying very much so far!
Keep safe, keep well people. And go on, grab your library card, check out your local library website, download an audiobook, or check out an ebook – and keep reading.