Every week I write one of these posts, it’s a week closer to the start of the #AyeWrite Festival and this makes me happy!
If you haven’t been along to this festival before, then I’d recommend you give it a go – it has something for everyone – from the weans and #WeeWrite, to the budding writers with Creative Writing Workshops to the author stalkers like me – with a host of awesome author panels to choose from!
One of the events I’ll be covering this year is Chris Paling’s session named “Reading Allowed”. Chris is a librarian in a small town library and he has penned a novel telling the story behind the people who use our libraries.
“Aye Write has always been very proud of the amazing work that our librarians do all year round here at the Mitchell and in libraries across the country. Chris Paling works as a librarian in a small-town library and Reading Allowed is the story of the staff and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis. We’ll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, The Mad Hatter, Sons of Anarchy Alan and Trish, for whom the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest. Chris’s stories are tragic, amusing, and surreal, and together they show that libraries are one of the few places left where anyone can go to find someone who will give them the time of day.” (Aye Write Brochure)
I’ve chosen to attend this session as the library is a place which I hold very dear to my heart. I have fond childhood memories of attending the local library with my dad, who absolutely instilled the love of books, reading and the written word, into me from a very young age. As a child, I would have my nose stuck in a book at any opportunity and the library was my favourite place to visit – so much so that my dad had to eventually restrict me to one visit a week, or I’d have trailed him down there every day of the week! I can still recall the sheer excitement of reaching the age where I was allowed to move membership from the junior to the senior library and my pride of being able to join the grown ups in this wonderous world of so many fascinating works, the old tickets you used to get with the stamps on them and the very reverence of the silence that pervaded the building and those oh so stern looks the librarian would give anyone daring to raise their voice above a whisper!
Times have changed of course and now libraries are subject to the same changes and cuts as resources grow tighter. Many of our libraries locally have turned into “hubs” within our communities hosting a number of other local services as well as just books. The Oxford Dictionary defines hub as “The effective centre of an activity” and so my vision of a library as a “hub” is one in which the community are engaged not only with the world of books but also with each other and with local services, a “hub” with a real vibrant sense of community. Yet what strikes me about these changes are that they are not always encouraging the library to become a “hub” for the local communities; they often become transient places where people go to “pay their council tax, pick up poop bags or to make use of council services.
Why are our libraries not being funded and encouraged to attract these visitors further into the heart of the library – to see books, writing, the written word and authors as accessible to all and not just to the “clever yins”? Ask any librarian (and I have!) and they tell you that is what they want more than anything else. Librarians are aware of the potential out there to offer people more but their hands are often tied by budget restrictions.
As well as opening up a world of reading and books there is so much potential for libraries to support their local communities in other ways, for example:
- improving health and wellbeing – “Healthy Reading” Schemes allow GPs to “prescribe” books as a tool for many to help self-manage conditions; they provide a “non-clinical” space for people to come together and offer mutual support and advice.
- Community Inclusion – by offering a free and safe environment for people to come together then libraries create a sense of “place and belonging” for communities, especially in deprived areas.
- Digital literacy and lifelong learning – Trained staff can help people to get online and access services and information with digital skills training. Libraries provide free WiFi and access to digital devices. Particularly useful in the digital age when more and more services need to be accessed online and not everyone has the skills or equipment to do this. Libraries play an important role in supporting the school curriculum with reading for enjoyment, books clubs and homework clubs. They also provide opportunities for adult learning and reading.
But more than that, libraries have the potential to be so much more, they are a place to connect, a place to learn, a place to reflect, a place just simply to be. We need more people to start using our libraries, talk to the staff about how you/your group could use the space and encourage more people to visit, make suggestions, be bold, be brave…our imaginations hold no bounds!
To book a place at “Reading Allowed” then log onto the AyeWrite website and get clicking
To buy the book check out Amazon link below