December 17, 2008
Libraries are for everybody- but what does 'everybody ' mean?
I was fortunate earlier in the week to be at the launch of Unison's report on Public Libraries , which is very good.
Both Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison and Minister Ed Balls made good speeches emphasing the importance of libraries from different perspectives and Steve Davies, the author of the report showed that he is well informed and has a good understanding and he underlined the essential role of books, which is so rarely heard.
I have been working in a library which has few members over the age of thirty five and almost none over the age of sixty. This, sadly, is a deliberate consequence of the active pursuit of young people, whether they want to read or not, in that area, which has been very successful. Thank goodness, the council has now realised that they have actually dirven a large part of their community away from using their libraries and they wish they hadn't done that. The pursuit of 'youth' was also the theme of Ed Balls talk - although it is hardly surprising as he is Minister for Young people and schools.
One hears nothing about the active pursuit of visits to libraries from people who generally stay at home, for whatever reason and don't go out to work or commute somewehere else (I refuse to call them old or out of work) . These are people who don't want the library to be full of commotion or community events, but want it to be a practical place for their own private purposes, normally the search for information or just reading. These people, however one characterises them, are actually rather excluded from the government agendas. They form a large part of our population and I don't understand why when we say 'libraries are for everybody' they are not part of what we mean.
LIbrary leaders have to realise that we must design libraries so that they are attractive and useful to both young audiences and old ones at the same time. It isn't that difficult to do, most poeple who sell to the public manage to do it- and it is an obligation for a public service. We can't have public libraries being a battle ground for an age war. Can we?
Posted by Perkins at December 17, 2008 5:30 PM