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For the past year, stadium stands and festival fields have stood empty. We have been forced to lament the closure of theatres and the shutdown of independent businesses. Now, there is another part of our society under threat: libraries.
With the gradual reopening of shops, restaurants, and bars, the question remains – what is to become of the hallowed library halls?
Over the course of the last decade, over 800 public libraries have been closed in the UK. Given the social isolation and detrimental economic impact of the pandemic, it seems this number is only in danger of growing but for many, this is no longer a concern. It seems we now find ourselves balanced on the precipice of a technological takeover, as Kindles and search engines replace the book pages of the past. However, I can’t help but feel we are losing a huge part of our community as we let libraries fall back into the archives.
I spent much of my childhood surrounded by books, scavenging the library shelves by day, and reading under my duvet by torchlight at night. I waded through cupboards crammed with coats in my search for Narnia and longed to climb the changing staircases of Hogwarts. Each year, as I packed my holiday suitcase, I would hide books between the folds of towels and under family-size bottles of 50+ sun cream. Yet, while some people may claim to have grown out of the ‘bookworm’ phase, I most certainly have not.
Nowadays, many people feel there is simply no time or place for libraries in our society but they’re wrong. Libraries are the linchpin of our community.
Libraries are one of the few places left where people of any gender, race, religion, or background can find representation and acceptance. No one is turned away at the door for lack of money or power and everyone has access to a warm room, a friendly face, and the education and escapism of a great book.
Libraries are the epicentre of countless community programmes, hosting book clubs and ESL classes, the likes of which bring comfort to thousands, particularly those who are often isolated, the elderly, and the disabled.
Without the support of young people, who are shaping the future of our communities, these libraries can’t survive. We are standing on the edge, watching libraries creep closer to extinction. We need to take action.
The next time you have an hour or two to spare, why not get in the step count and stroll down to your local library?
Bookstagram is a new subgenre of Instagram shooting to popularity on the app and there is nowhere more aesthetic for a book-themed Instagram than a library. Snap some photos, read some books, even donate your time once exams are over and you’re looking for something to fill the CV.
After a year of uncertainty, the end of the pandemic is in sight. With this new hope comes an opportunity to rebuild our lives around the people and places we love. Libraries must be a part of this new chapter. They hold too much importance to the forgotten of our society and too much hope for the future to slip away into the history books of the past.