Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

WHO NEEDS LIBRARIES?

In John Wilmot on February 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

All of us!

The cutback in the library service throughout the country has provoked a massive campaign against the closure of what had become familiar and reassuring literary centres in communities throughout the country. Public libraries have long been used by folk from across the age and social range. They have encouraged youngsters to read – and ensured that the habit remained with them throughout their lives. They have become centres of research – and even just places to meet.

We can thank the Victorians for the first libraries as we know them today. It was they who passed the Public Libraries Act of 1850, at a time when the spread of literacy was regarded as vital in a civilised society.

County libraries, however, only came into being after 1888 – the year when county councils were set up as units of local government. This allowed the spread of libraries from the bigger urban centres into the rural communities. And mobile libraries came into use to spread the practice of reading even more widely, to scattered homes and amongst those unable to travel.

Many of those who have joined the campaign against library closures are those who, early in their lives, learned the value of reading and went on to treasure books as they grew older. They’ve learned how important libraries can be.

Now, it seems, the barbarians are in our midst, and the library network built up over a century or more is being dismembered and  fragmented.

JOHN WILMOT

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