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The Library Book Kindle Edition
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Some of my favorite chapters are:
Alan Bennett's "Baffled at a Bookcase" contains some well-chosen excerpts, such as this one from "Me, I'm Afraid of Virginia Wolf": "Hopkins was never without a book. It wasn't that he was particularly fond of reading; he just liked to have somewhere to look. A book makes you safe. Shows you're not out to pick anybody up. Try it on. With a book you're harmless. Though Hopkins was harmless without a book."
Seth Godin's "The Future of the Library" praises librarians as much more than custodians of books. "The librarian isn't a clerk who happens to work at a library. A librarian is a data hound, a guide, a sherpa and a teacher. The librarian is the interface between reams of data and the untrained but motivated user."
China Mieville's "The Booksteps" accompanies a girl who comes to school prepared for a visit to the library. Over-prepared, it seems at first.
Tom Holland's "The Library of Babylon" begins with a discussion of Jorge Luis Borges' "Library of Babel." The author then describes the historical library of Babylon and leads readers on a tour of other famous historical libraries. He lends depth to our sometimes simplistic view of libraries as unassuming buildings full of cluttered bookshelves.
Not all of the offerings are as entertaining. There are too many breathless reimaginings of formative childhood experiences in and near libraries. None of them are actually bad, but there are just too many, highlighting their common images, emotions, and lessons learned. This makes them seem cliché-ridden--more than they should. More targeted invitations to contribute and a stronger editorial hand might have prevented or corrected for this.
Still, it's a fairly good collection and worth your selective attention.
If you have always been well off and able to afford to buy books then maybe you do not realise what it's like to live in a house with no books and no prospect of buying any. I was brought up by parents who enjoyed reading but who didn't own a large collection of books. As a family we visited the library on a regular basis and it was a highlight of my life. I too remember spending happy hours in Armley Public library in Leeds as did Alan Bennet who recalls his childhood and student life in and around Leeds in his contribution to this book. I too spent a great deal of time in Leeds City Reference Library - often reading about King Richard III, when I should have been writing essays on other subjects entirely.
I agree with Seth Godin `the scarce resource is knowledge and insight, not access to data'. He makes a powerful case for librarians to be regarded as guides and gatekeepers providing information and insight not just acting as forbidding custodians to the resources of their libraries. Books can change lives as demonstrated by Stephen Fry when as a boy of thirteen he read about the trials of Oscar Wilde. Books can inspire people to make huge changes in their lives and they can inspire children to gain qualifications even though their parents may not encourage them. `Libraries are places of cultural importance, where magic happens and where dreams begin.' As Ann Cleeves put it.
Libraries are oases of calm where children and adults can go to escape from difficult home circumstances - they are a refuge for people from all classes and all educational attainments. Even with the prevalence of internet access people still need access to books. What will happen to children from deprived homes who want to read for entertainment or for education? If we close libraries we close off access to opportunities for people who cannot afford to buy their own books. In times of recession access to libraries is even more important than it is in times of a flourishing economy. When people are struggling to pay their bills the first things to go may be the purchase of books and access to the internet.
Reading is fundamental to living in modern society. We need to be able to read to find our way around and to access services and education. Reading to improve our knowledge of the world or to gain better qualifications is vital to the economy. We need an educated work force. To close libraries is to exclude a large number of the poorest in society from the chance to improve their lives, to exclude them from hope and to deprive a generation of children of opportunity. Libraries are not a middle class perk they are a working class necessity.