We are going through a period of local authority austerity measures, resulting in the very short-sighted policy of closing public libraries. Well over 300 have closed since 2009, whilst others have been saved only by being taken over by community groups and staffed by volunteers. Much gratitude is owed to them.
Libraries are absolutely vital to a civilised society. Education takes place not only in schools, but for life in libraries. At a time when it is thought that boys in particular need to be encouraged to read, and we are sliding down the world rankings in terms of educational achievement, we opt to close down one of the most vital of public services. How can we hope to develop intelligent and civilised minds without books and reading? ‘Library’ derives from the Latin for book, ‘liber, libris’, and I would say that the word ‘liberation’ does too- liberation from ignorance, prejudice and lack of imagination at the very least.
Here is the poem I wrote for a reading in aid of a community library group in my part of the world.
Inside the building of worlds
all was there,
worlds within words within worlds,
from the narrow shadowed field,
from the stricken streets,
from the daily creaking mill.
How the girl lost herself
and found herself
and lost herself again,
fed the hunger
on a simple page
in a simple chair.
How the boy’s horizons broadened
of polar ice cap,
Shackleton meeting Confucius,
Peter Rabbit on board with Columbus,
Mowgli in the little house on the prairie,
Darwin discoursing with Prince Caspian;
and was that not God and Kierkegaard
Their minds, their imaginations
lay like fallow fields in the sun,
eager for the sowing of seeds,
thirsty for the raindrops of wisdom;
and the old man came in
out of the wind’s careless clamour
to warm himself on the world’s news.
Then all the wise men and women
of Constantinople Alexandria
Cordoba and Nalanda
wept to see
the chains of Fiscal Man
imprison the brains of new-born babies,
his setting fire to the old libraries.
© David Urwin 2016