Boyd Tonkin: Overdue: a shot of the public spirit
We would like to say a big thank you for the coverage in The Independent and of course to Boyd Tonkin, for sharing his fond memories of Friern Barnet library and hoping like us, Barnet Council keep our library open for future generations.
Boyd Tonkin from the The Independent he recalls his own childhood delight in discovering the magic of books in our library, he says:
"In my childhood, Friern Barnet library offered just one example of the cherished public space. From parks to clinics, we took them all cheerfully for granted. No longer. In addition to the financial squeeze that government policy dictates, the idea of public provision now has to face an ideological attrition that – across all media – erodes it in a thousand ways, overt and covert."
Mr Tonkin has also written about us again in The Independent (online and paper) on Friday 15th July, advertising our Summer Party:
Boyd Tonkin: Jewels in Rupert's tarnished crown
Libraries face their day in court
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the threat to Friern Barnet Library in London N11 – the local haven that, during my childhood, helped make me into a voracious reader. The battle to save it from Barnet Council's closure plan – which, of course, would mean a longer journey to a library – has gathered pace, with support from writers as varied as Michael Morpurgo, Lisa Jewell and Mark Billingham. On Saturday, the campaigners will host a party at the library (Friern Barnet Road, N11 3DS) from 2-4pm. Across London, the pioneering push to save six Brent libraries from the axe will go to the High Court on 19 July for a judicial review whose outcome may well set a precedent for anti-cuts activism. On 20 July, Philip Pullman will be talking to Maggie Gee in a fund-raising event at Queen's Park Community School, NW6 7BQ: www.savekensalriselibrary.org. And apologies for this metropolitan bias – for news of library campaigns around the country, consult www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk
Click here for his full editorial
And from Orange New Writer award winner and Hendon resident, Naomi Alderman says:
"Libraries are needed by the poorest and most vulnerable in our community. Children who want to study but have no quiet place in a crowded or noisy home to do it. Pensioners on fixed incomes whose greatest pleasure is reading but who can't afford to buy new books. Those people on low wages who aren't able to afford internet access or reference books at home. They are a way to care for the minds of our citizens, just as hospitals care for our bodies. They should be the very last thing we consider."
From Blue Peter Award winning author and leading library campaigner Alan Gibbons:
‘Let them buy books from Tesco!’ - Barnet's Councillors are posing as latter-day Marie Antoinettes. They want to 'save money' by closing libraries. Illiteracy is not something we should bequeath our children. Culture and reading are not a frippery. They are an essential element in a democratic society." (Alan Gibbons)
It is greatly appreciated!
The poet, librarian and Finchley resident Fleur Adcock, OBE has signed our petition to keep our library open.
We are greatly honoured and pleased from the support of many brilliant and creative writers and this is also extended to Fleur Adcock. Thank you!
Writer Lisa Jewell talks about her joy of her local library and wanders what will happen for the future generations if they close.
"My sisters and I were taken to our local library every week by our mother. I don't remember much about my childhood, but I do remember the Ant & Bee books on the third shelf down. I do remember the mahogany panelling and the nice ladies behind the desk always ready to help us find what we were looking for. And I remember growing up in that tiny library, moving from the children's corner to the main library, from Judith Kerr to Agatha Christie to Dickens as my tastes developed. I'm going to the library this afternoon, in fact, with my own daughters. Their memories will include computers and colourful play areas well as books and helpful ladies. And of course, as a published writer, I rely on libraries to make my books accessible to readers who woudn't otherwise read them. There as so many reasons to keep libraries open. It's not just about books, it's about community and childhood and the very basic tenets of a civilisation. Seeing libraries boarded up and bulldozed and redeveloped will break hearts. And once they're gone they're gone. Forever. And with them a million childhood memories and unread books. We will look back on this and shake our heads with disbelief. Our libraries, all of them, need to be saved."
Mark Billingham signed our petition and supports keeping it open.
"Without the use of my local library when I was a kid I would never have discovered books and, put simply, my life would not have been changed for the better. We should fight tooth and nail to keep every library open."
Mark is the creator of the DCI Thorne Character who features on Sky One and is played by David Morrisey. Mark's novels often feature Barnet locations such as Totteridge & Whetstone Tube Station and Colindale Police Station.
Michael Morpurgo urges a "rethink" and save Friern Barnet library
Friern Barnet Library is so typical of those libraries up and down the country now under threat of closure. It is a place essential to the wellbeing of local people, educationally, socially, intellectually and emotionally. I urge those who would seek to close them down, to think again before it is too late. We need books, we need knowledge, we need understanding. Libraries give us the tools we all need to build fulfilled lives, useful lives.
Posted by Kate on Aug 14, 2011
We’ve written about library closures and the need to support our libraries before on the Nosy Crow blog. Several of the authors that Kate has had the privilege of publishing have been vocal about this issue, including Julia Donaldson and Philip Pullman, and there are, of course, other powerful advocates for libraries, from author and children’s reading campaigner Alan Gibbons to Alan Bennett.
Caitlin Moran (author of the funny, touching and pretty sensible adult book, How To Be a Woman, whose column is the reason I buy The Times on a Saturday) used her weekly column in yesterday’s The Times Magazine, to condemn library closures. I think it’s a strong, personal and witty piece though there are bits I don’t 100% agree with. It’s reproduced here with her permission.
“Home-educated and, by 17, writing for a living, the only alma mater I have ever had is Warstones Library, Pinfold Grove, Wolverhampton.
It was a low, red-brick box on grass that verged on wasteland, and I would be there twice a day – rocking up with all the ardour of a clubber turning up to a rave. I read every book in there – not really, of course, but as good as; when I’d read all the funny books, I moved on to the sexy ones, then the dreamy ones, the mad ones, the ones that described distant mountains, idiots, plagues, experiments.
I sat at the big table and read all the papers; on a council estate in Wolverhampton, the broadsheets were as incongruous and illuminating as an Eames lamp.
The shelves were supposed to be loaded with books – but they were, of course, really doors; each book-lid opened was as exciting as Alice putting her gold key in the door. I spent days running in and out of other worlds like a time bandit or a spy. I was as excited as I’ve ever been in my life in that library, scoring new books the minute they came in; ordering books I’d heard of, then waiting, fevered, for them to arrive, like they were Word Christmas.
I had to wait nearly a year for Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire to come; even so, I was still too young to think it anything but a bit wanky, and abandoned it 20 pages in for Jilly Cooper.
But Les Fleurs du Mal, man! In a building overlooked by a Kwik Save, where the fags and alcohol were kept in a locked metal cage lest they be stolen! Simply knowing that I could have it in my had was a comfort in this place so very, very far from anything extraordinary or exultant.
Everything I am is based on this ugly building on its lonely lawn – lit up during winter darkness, open in the slashing rain – which allowed a girl so poor she didn’t even own a purse to come in twice a day an experience actual magic: travelling through time, making contact with the dead (Dorothy Parker, Charlotte Bronte, Richard Brautigan, Truman Capote).
A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead. A human with a brain and a heart and a desire to be uplifted, rather than a customer with a credit card and an inchoate “need” for “stuff”.
A mall – the shops – are places where your money makes the wealthier wealthy. But a library is where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary instead. A satisfying reversal. A balancing of the power.
Last month, after protest, an injunction was granted to postpone library closures in Somerset. In September, both Somerset and Gloucestershire councils will be the subject of a full judicial review over their closure plans. As the cuts kick in, protesters and lawyers are fighting for individual libraries like dog-walkers pushing stranded whales back into the sea.
A public library is such a potent symbol of a town’s values; each one closed down might as well be 6,000 stickers plastered over every available surface reading: “WE CHOOSE TO BECOME MORE STUPIDAND DULL”.
Although I have read a million words on the necessity for the cuts, I have not seen a single letter on what the exit plan is: what happens in four years’ time, when the cuts will have succeeded, and the economy gets back to “normal” again. Do we then – prosperous once more – go round and re-open all these centres, clinics and libraries, which have sat, dark and unused, for nearly half a decade?
It’s hard to see how – it costs millions of pounds to re-open deserted buildings, and cash-strapped councils will have looked at billions of square feet of prime real estate with a coldly realistic eye.
Unless the Government has developed an exit strategy for the cuts, and has insisted that councils not sell closed properties, by the time we get back to “normal” again, our Victorian and postwar and Sixties red-brick boxy libraries will be coffee shops, Lidls and pubs. No new libraries will be built to replace them. These libraries will be lost forever.
And in their place, we will have a thousand more public spaces where you are simply the money in your pocket rather than the hunger in your heart. Kids – poor kids – will never know the fabulous, benign quirk of self-esteem of walking into “their” library and thinking: “I have read 60 per cent of the books in here. I am awesome.” Libraries that stayed open during the Blitz will be closed by budgets.
A trillion small doors closing.”
We hope we do not have a problem to use this on our website, via permission granted to Alan Gibbons, if not, please let us know if not