Saturday, March 25, 2006

Love Libraries Campaign

I was going to report on the Government's new Love Libraries campaign when it started two days ago, but I've been engaged in a reading/proof-reading project since Wednesday and it had slipped my mind (in spite of the radio ads I've been hearing since Thursday), until I saw Kelly's post (thanks for the reminder !) on Philip Pullman's article for the Times on why he loves libraries.

Pullman writes

[...] I live in Oxford, where there are some of the greatest libraries in the world [...]. But it isn’t only the Bodleian, or the Science Library, or the Law Library, these great university institutions, that I cherish. Only a week ago I spent some time in the Oxford public library’s local history department, looking through old maps of the city for a scene in a novel I’m writing now. Everything I needed was there, and the staff were helpful and knowledgeable, and I came away, as I always do, grateful for the wise provision of an earlier generation, for a time in our history when civic leaders thought that education and knowledge were not a luxury for the idle rich, but a vital necessity if every citizen was going to live a full and decent life.

Like Philip I use the local public library in Oxford on a regular basis. I actually prefer it to the Bodleian (much as I love the Bod.), because the chairs aren't so uncomfortable and the desks are less pristine and daunting than in the Bod., so I only go to the Bodleian when I can't get a book via the public library. Many of the librarians in the public library know me by sight or voice (as I discovered recently when I rang and asked for a couple of books to be put aside for me to collect the following day and I asked the librarian "Don't you want my name?" and she replied, "It's Michele, isn't it?"), if not by name. They will go out of their way to tell me that a book in which I'm interested is on its way or unavailable, or that a book I requested is ready to collect. If I enquire about the possibility of them getting a copy of a new book, I'll often find it's been added to my reservations list, so I know my request was heeded. Only one or two of the librarians do not appear very friendly, and nearly all of them will chat to me about whatever I'm taking out on this visit (and I take books out twice a week, since I can't afford to buy books (even used ones) very often). Several have taken an interest in my writing projects when I've mentioned why I'm hording titles on certain subjects or specifying a date by which I need a particular book.

A few days ago I asked users in an online discussion forum what they couldn't live without - and the library was the first of the three things I listed - so thank you, David Lammy, but I don't need your prompting to Love Libraries... Mine is an essential part of my life !

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