Saturday, 5 February 2011

Save Our Libraries Day - The Read-In At Roade Library, Northamptonshire

Roade Sign copyright James Rudd
The library at Roade was crammed as I arrived.  Simply jammed with wall-to-wall people--all ages from babies in arms to the very elderly.  They were all determined to save their library from closure, to make their voices heard, and to give support to their two knowledgeable, enthusiastic and utterly irreplaceable librarians. 

The Roade Crowd
The newly-formed Friends of Roade Library were out in force with tea and the most wonderful array of cakes, the press photographer from the Chronicle and Echo was snapping away, as was James Rudd of TowcesterNews (to whom many thanks for permission to use some of the photos here).  There were four of us local authors--Julia Jarman and me for the children's book side, and Leo and Cassandra McNeir for the adults.
Lucy and Books copyright James Rudd
I talked to so many people today.  There was a lady who comes to the library up to four times a week--for books--but also for social life, for clubs, for chatting to friends.  "Where else could I go, if this was closed?" she asked me.  I spoke to a retired teacher, looking at a guidebook to Australia where she's off to visit friends soon. "I just popped in to check something.  I use the library all the time. It's essential to me."  I heard about the elderly gentleman who comes in for his audiobooks--the librarian knows just what he likes, and takes care to set time aside to chat to him.  I talked to the kids--who had made fantastic posters to make their point. DON'T CLOSE OUR LIBRARY All of them read books.  All of them loved books.  All of those kids had been coming to borrow books the library since before they could walk.  Roade Library is essential to all of them in so many different ways. 
Emergency Library Aid Needed!
While I was hearing stories from the people who use Roade, there was a lively Rhymetime session going on in the children's corner--complete with variations! The kids joined in enthusiastically--and no wonder.
Rhymetime at Roade
Then it was Julia Jarman's turn to read one of her lovely picture books--and all the time, people were coming and going from Roade and all the surrounding communities, signing up for the library, taking out books, returning them, asking advice--saying how much they loved and valued their library. 

A Quiet Moment

One little boy had seized on the book he wanted and, not wanting to wait a moment longer to open it, had settled down in one of the few quiet corners to read. 

While Leo McNeir was reading an extract from his latest crime novel, I joined the young badge makers at the back of the children's area--who made me a selection of excellent 'Save Roade Library' stickers--all of which I wore with great pride for the rest of the day. Then it was my turn to read--I think the children liked my attempt to snore like a giant best!
Lucy reading from Greek Beasts and Heroes
I had a great chat afterwards with a young lady who is destined to be a writer, I think, and who, the librarian told me, 'devours books as fast as I give them to her'.  She settled down to read one of mine--and had finished it within the hour!

A Fanatical Library User
Meanwhile, we had been joined by Councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage from Northamptonshire County Council, and by Councillor Stephen Clarke from South Northamptonshire Council. Councillor Gonzales de Savage tells me he trained as a librarian for 3 years, and worked as a school librarian at two schools in Hampstead.  He must know how important libraries are--and he is in charge of trying to close eight of them in Northamptonshire.  A little ironic, I feel, to say the least. 
Councillor Clarke (l) and Counciller Gonzalez de Savage(r) of SNC and NCC
Councillor Gonzalez de Savage talked a great deal about the Government imposing cuts, but he said he was willing to listen and to work with Roade to try and find a solution.  Here are some other things he said:
"I'm not working towards a negative for you."  Well, we're glad to hear that, Councillor.
"I would vote 100% against the council [closing Roade Library] if there was a sustainable plan for funding."  We will hold you to that, Sir!
On any 'matching' by the council of funds to money raised by voluntary donations: "Funding support is a one year scenario."  So where does that leave Roade next year, then, Councillor? 
"I will do what I possibly can to link communities who want to share libraries...I am passionate for libraries but [funding] has to be supported fiscally by communities." We already pay our taxes for the library, Councillor!  But it's good to know you are 'passionate for libraries'. 

Despite the huge show of support, there is a long way still to go for Roade.  The Parish Council will be discussing the planned closure and how to prevent it as a matter of urgency--Paula Davies of the Friends of Roade Library has to put together a skeleton plan and get it to the council by Tuesday.  Time is not on Roade's side.  But the fight has started in earnest--Roade library was just one of many all over the country where people were getting vocal for their local.  We will not give up.  We will not go away.  We will not be quiet.  We can't. Libraries and the many things they give us are essential to a civilised and literate society.  As Kathy Lette said recently: "Closing our libraries will make us a nation of numbskulls – the Illiterati." And none of us want that, do we?


julia jarman said...

It was great to meet so many enthusiastic committed people. I feel sure this library will stay open in some form BUT I do not see how it can serve the community as well as it does now without the presence of paid professional, qualified librarians. I was impressd by the commitment of the librarians and shocked at the thought of them losing their jobs. Such a loss!

Katherine Langrish said...

Well done Lucy, Julia and all. Let's keep up the fight!

Anonymous said...

Roade Library doesn't have any paid professionally qualified librarians, just a library manager.

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