Monday, 21 February 2011


Well, lots of author and illustrator friends have been up in arms over proposed library cuts. I decided to keep quiet on the subject - illustrious people like Philip Ardagh, Jackie Morris and James Mayhew can voice their incredulity and outrage much more eloquently than I ever could. (Added to which, I suspect my local library is run by the three witches from Macbeth, but that's another story). However, something happened last week to change my mind - so I'm adding my small whisper to the online cacophony. 

Last week, I had forgotten that I was supposed to be giving a talk at a library in a little village. Loftus Library to be precise. Loftus is a small town, perched on the Northern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Most of the buildings are made from wind-blasted sandstone, and it has a sundial on the town hall instead of a clock. John, the head librarian, is a pop-up book enthusiast and collector. (He told me has 300+ stuffed on specially-made shelves in his attic). Luckily, he rang me last Tuesday to remind me about the talk I was meant to be giving to his Library Club. Doubly luckily for me (being, as I am, a nervous public speaker) the Library Club consists of around 20 gentle, elderly ladies mainly around their early eighties.

And it was the ladies who came along to the talk, and John himself who really impressed on me WHY LIBRARIES ARE SO VALUABLE. (Apart from the obvious - instilling curiousity and a love of literature in young people, providing community space, and making innumerable avenues of information freely available and fully accessible). But even more beyond this - they TRULY facilitate friendships and offer compassion to the most vulnerable members of a community. 

So, at a quarter past one, John disappeared to bring Olive, (a keenly incisive, wheelchair-bound ninety year old) from the residential home where she lives, opposite the library. Two of the ladies who came to the talk were completely housebound - the Library Club was one of the rare occasions they ever left the house. Two more made a special journey by taxi, to see their friends (and listen to me babble). I can't even BEGIN to impress on you what Loftus Library offers to the local community. The ladies of the library club are interested in EVERYTHING, but it also offers a form of solace and therapy (not to mention tea and biscuits) to the most isolated and vulnerable members of society. 

In short, people like John, and libraries in general, are worth their weight in gold.    

(Photograph courtesy of the image archive at LOFTUS LIBRARY).


  1. So true, and no I could never have put it as eloquently and you are every bit as illustrious!

  2. Oh dear James, that's JUST NOT TRUE :)