Inspiration

Here we link to some of the most eloquent examples of people explaining why libraries and the people working in them matter, and why they are so absolutely fundamental to our communities and wider society. Read, listen, and get inspired!

Author Abigail Tarttelin : Libraries are cheap compared to the price of ignorance
“It makes sense to have a moral reaction to the closing of libraries: literacy underscores the universal declaration of human rights, including the right to education, the right to work and the right to freedom of opinion and expression. But I wonder, too, whether these proposals make economic sense. In Britain, where 16% of adults are functionally illiterate, trained librarians and fully stocked libraries play a vital role in educating both children and adults, which enables social mobility and supports efforts to end child poverty, something the UK government promised to do by 2020. These cuts do not make sense from an economic perspective… Libraries are worth more to the taxpayer in the long term than the council will save in the short term by closing them.” Read on here…
Stephen Fry: Original ideas

Derek Jacobi: No books at home as a child
“Libraries are very important, they have certainly been important in my life. Since I was six or seven years old I was encouraged to join the local library. We didn’t have any books at home but I had an enterprising piano teacher who said you must get your hands on some books. I love the atmosphere of libraries too. I like the look, the smell, the texture of the books.” Read on here.
Philip Ardagh: Librarians are the hole in the polo mint.

UNESCO: Libraries are a sign of a healthy society
“The pulic library is a practical demonstration of democracy’s faith in universal education as a continuing and lifelong process, in the appreciation of the achievement of humanity in knowledge and culture. It is the principal means whereby the record of man’s throughts and ideals, and the expression of his creative imagination, are made freely available to all.” Explore the manifesto here.
Jeanette Winterson: Destroying libraries helps destroy communities
“It seems so easy now to destroy libraries – mainly by taking away all the books – and to say that books and libraries are not relevant to people’s lives. There’s a lot of talk about social breakdown and alienation, but how can it be otherwise when our ideas of progress remove the centres that did so much to keep people together? In the North people met in the church, in the pub, in the marketplace, and in those philanthropic buildings where they could continue their education and their interests. Now, maybe, the pub is left – but mainly nothing is left.” From p.90 (Vintage paperback edition) of her memoir Why be happy when you could be normal? Learn more about it here
Cruddas Park Library users: “Internet, job search, cocoa, knitting club, books, jigsaws, photocopier, newspaper, cup of tea, socialise, bits and bobs.”
Photographer Keith Pattison has recorded a week in the life of Cruddas Park branch library in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – and, in the process, given a delightful insight into its staff, its users and the range of services it offers. View the project here.
Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson: Library cuts are a false economy
“Something like 50 per cent of prisoners are illiterate, so it doesn’t make sense to be shutting down the places which are stimulating and encouraging a love of books. It’s a false economy.” More here…
Julian Barnes: My life as a bibliophile
“[My parents] were both schoolteachers, so respect for the book and what it contained were implicit. We didn’t go to church, but we did go to the library.” Read the full article here.
Freya North: Libraries are ‘cornerstones of the community’
“I’m a huge fan of the library system – having written seven of my novels from my local branch. They are so much more than simply peaceful collections of wonderful books – they’re cornerstones of the community.” Read on here…
Kunal Dutta: Keep on borrowing – libraries refuse to die
A report from The Independent on the fightback by Friern Barnet campaigners over the closure of their library. “Standing under a marquee, Joanna Fryer clutches a clipboard and explains how to borrow books in a library-less world. “Just choose the ones you want, give me your name and telephone number and bring them back next week. We trust you.” Read the full article here…
Sarah Mackey, Office of Letters and Light community liaison:
“We partner with libraries all over the world to help give writers a space to find each other, and explore their imaginations, free of charge. That’s a little bit of magic, I think. A building that offers you the whole world, for free… remember that you belong at your library. Stop by your local library for a little bit of magic.” Read the full blog post here…
Neil Gaiman: Librarians are made of awesome
“I think librarians are awesome. Librarians are the coolest people out there doing the hardest job out there on the frontlines. And every time I get to encounter or work with librarians, I’m always impressed by their sheer awesomeness.” Read more here…
Cory Doctorow: Librarians will educate you in problem-solving
“Many’s the time I’ve walked into a good library and asked the reference librarians for help with something really chewy – the sort of thing I might otherwise pay a researcher to find. Unlike a paid researcher, reference librarians usually don’t just give you the answer, but rather take you by the hand and guide you through the use of library resources (including proprietary databases that aren’t accessible over your home Internet connection), giving you an education in problem-solving as well as the solution to your problem. Librarians, ultimately, are in the business of evaluating the authority of information sources, a problem that has never confronted more people than it does in the era of the Internet.

“I’m particularly looking forward to the day that hackspaces and libraries begin to realize that they’re approaching the same problem from different directions, and [turn] a corner of the local branch into an e-waste recycling depot where librarians and tinkerers will help you build and outfit your own PC, giving you the technical and information literacy to understand what your computer is doing on your behalf.” Read this article in full on the BoingBoing blog here.

National Libraries Day: The Library Book
“When you are researching a book these days, it’s tempting to rely on the internet. It’s certainly invaluable: a huge swathe of research literature is there at all our fingertips. But that’s when you know what you are looking for. Every book I find via an internet search has something to say that I already know about. In a library, on the other hand, that book is only a starting point. That book is surrounded by books on a similar subject – books I didn’t know about. You pick them up, flick through them, and find treasures – and wisdom – you would never otherwise have found.” Michael Brooks’ essay, It Takes A Library, produced in the National Libraries Day 2012 publication The Library Book. Learn more about The Library Book here…
The mystery of Scotland’s secret sculptor
A graffiti artist called Banksy became famous around the globe in the 1990s after secretly leaving his art work on walls across London. Now Scotland has its own secret artist. Keith Wallace reports from Edinburgh on the delicate sculptures made from books which have been appearing in cultural establishments across the city. Watch the full report here.
Simon Callow: I cannot conceive of a life without libraries.
“I cannot conceive of a life without libraries. I was born in Streatham and I grew up next to the public library. From the moment I could read, in fact even before I could read, I was in libraries.” More here…
Tony Hawks: Libraries make me proud to be British
“Libraries are something I am very positive about. I was recently asked what made me proud to be British and I said it was our libraries. Free public libraries and free museums are some of the things we have been world leaders in and other countries have followed us.” More here…
Colin Dexter: Libraries are the big story of 2011
“What has worried me most about the calls for a ‘big society’ solution to the library problem in the past 12 months is the idea that you can cut library services and employ amateurs instead. Librarians have taken years to train up and can tell you what you should and shouldn’t read. Some of the processes are very complicated indeed. I think the Government has been surprised by the scale of the response; their actions were taken on the assumption that people would just sit back and let the consultations pave the way for closure. Instead, you saw the people gather and revolt and take their case to the courts instead. I would rather turn off every light on the motorway than close our libraries.” More here…
Michael Morpurgo: Keep faith with librarians and the Schools Library Service
“Every year I come to Hertfordshire to talk to your children about writing, to try to inspire them to find their own writing voice, and to encourage them to read. I tell them that reading is an essential avenue to fulfillment not merely for them as writers but as human beings, as citizens… I would appeal to you and your colleagues to keep faith with Librarians and the Schools Library Service and the children of Hertfordshire, by making it an absolute priority not only to keep the Schools Library Service open,but to seek to improve it, to do the right thing.” More here…
Rob Rogers: Library card
“All over the country public libraries are coming under siege. The funding is drying up and branches are closing. The lack of access to libraries will hurt the ones who need it most. The library is a great free source that can help even the playing field for those who can’t afford a computer or books or an expensive education. It would be a crime to see them disappear.” More here…
Alan Gibbons: A reading child is a successful child
“Everybody… knows that a reading child is a successful child. The National Literacy Trust points out that a child that goes to a library is twice as likely as one who doesn’t to be a good reader. It seemed blindingly obvious that we should defend and protect our libraries and yet, as the Parliamentary Committee said recently, libraries have been woefully led for years. Poor book stock in some areas, sometimes shabby buildings, very often opening hours that are incomprehensible to the public. But then came a much sharper focus.” More here…
Stephen Fry: Libraries have an extraordinary charge
“Almost everything I am I owe to libraries. When I was a child there was no great libraries around… but we did have this thing called the mobile library van that would come once a fortnight I think and I would wait for it like a child waiting for an ice cream van and I would get on and I would get my supply of books and they would last me two weeks and then when I was older I could get to Norwich, the local big city. I would spend hours and hours and hours there. It’s like the will o’ the wisp: one book lights another book which lights another one and another one. I suppose libraries still for me have this extraordinary charge.” More here…
Julian Barnes: Dismantling libraries is “self-mutilation”
“Like most writers of my generation, I grew up with the weekly exchange of library books, and took their pleasures and treasures for granted. The cost of our free public library system is small, its value immense. To diminish and dismantle it would be a kind of national self-mutilation, as stupid as it would be wicked.” More here…
Boyd Tonkin: An ideal few other sites could hope to match
“Perhaps, just for once, a sharpened sense of desperation might open political and media eyes to something other than plausible cynicism. If the local library system did not already stand, it would take uncountable billions to build. It serves (or did, until the cuts) many of those neighbourhoods bypassed and shunned by other amenities. Libraries are not schools, or courts, or job centres, or social-services outstations. At their best they embody an ideal of voluntary personal development and civic solidarity that few other sites could ever hope to match. ” More here…
Caitlin Moran: Not a consumer but a citizen instead
“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead. A human with a brain and a heart and a desire to be uplifted, rather than a customer with a credit card and an inchoate ‘need’ for ‘stuff’.”More here…
Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson: I resent the assumption of underfunding
“I find it hard to see why Ed Vaizey professes to find this cost-cutting exercise so innovative and creative. Some ideas, such as partnerships between adjacent borough councils, seem sensible enough and probably would be happening anyway, but others—such as replacing trained librarians with volunteers—would be more likely to lead to a deterioration of the service. Above all, I resent the underlying assumption that libraries should be underfunded by local government and should have to seek alternative ways to survive in the 21st century.” More here…
Philip Pullman: Leave the libraries alone. You don’t understand their value.
“Like all fundamentalists who get their clammy hands on the levers of political power, the market fanatics are going to kill off every humane, life-enhancing, generous, imaginative and decent corner of our public life. I think that little by little we’re waking up to the truth about the market fanatics and their creed.” More here…
• You can also read the author’s magnificent speech to The Library Campaign conference on Saturday October 22 here.
Voices for the Library: Stories from library users
“I think we can sometimes forget that libraries are not just about books, they’re about people: the people that write the books, that select the books, and those that borrow and use the books. I admit this is an overly simplistic view to make a point, but I am deeply disturbed by the lack of concern for those people shown by the local authorities of this country in their rush to disband library services as we know them.” Hear from library users here…
Zadie Smith: In defence of local libraries
“Busy with my own studies, and oblivious, the way children are, I didn’t notice that my brothers and I were not the only students in that flat. By the time I did, my mother had a degree. We were reading because our parents and teachers told us to. My mother was reading for her life” Listen to the full speech here or here, and read an article about it here.
Alan Bennett celebrates the libraries in his life – and argues for their future
“To a child living in high flats, say, where space is at a premium and peace and quiet not always easy to find, a library is a haven. But, saying that, a library needs to be handy and local; it shouldn’t require an expedition. Municipal authorities of all parties point to splendid new and scheduled central libraries as if this discharges them of their obligations. It doesn’t. For a child a library needs to be round the corner. And if we lose local libraries it is children who will suffer. Of the libraries I have mentioned the most important for me was that first one, the dark and unprepossessing Armley Junior Library. I had just learned to read. I needed books. Add computers to that requirement maybe but a child from a poor family is today in exactly the same boat.” More here…
Ken Worpole: 21st-century Libraries: Changing forms, changing futures
“The libraries of the 21st century are no longer simply familiar repositories for books. They have changed and expanded, been rethought and redesigned. Libraries now provide an increasing range of different services, using a multitude of media, and reach a more diverse audience than ever before… Reports of the death of the library have been greatly exaggerated.” Read his full research paper here (PDF).