Until the tsunami of information arrived via the internet back in the 1990’s we were reliant on libraries as those of us who didn’t have the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home needed to find out those details another way. I read a fair amount, as you may have gathered by now and I am fortunate enough to get many books through the post every month for me to read, however, I still go to the library at least once a week. Often twice… And still come back with way too many library books, at least that is according to my wife. They are the best free bookshop in town and not only do you get your books free, each author gets a little money each time you borrow a book.
It is rare that we see the view from the other side of the counter though. The man in charge of the date stamp is Chris Paling who works in a small town library somewhere in the UK. The people that beat a path to this place in the community are not just there for the books. A lot come into use the computers or just to socialise and for the company. His library gets homeless people seeking warmth in the winter, as well as attracting its fair share of the strange and the weird. His stories tell of the mundane daily life, shelving and answering simple queries from the public to the slightly shocking and often amusing tales that you get when you are a frontline public service.
Libraries are about Freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.” – Neil Gaiman
If you can’t remember the last time you went into a library then I would suggest that may be time to revisit one again. These are a precious resource and if we do not keep using them, then the already swinging cuts they have suffered will only get worse. I have used the quote above as Gaiman is one of those who pretty much read his library from one end to the other as a child, and it made him the writer he is today. Not everyone can afford to keep buying books all the time. Paling’s book is a useful insight into the daily life of a small town library and it will shock you and make you laugh with a page or so. Love reading and libraries, then you will probably like this. 3.5 stars