Probably a broken record but…

Hello there friends, it feels like its been a VERY long time since I last sat down and just wrote how I was feeling… I think its because although I rarely get things to the standard I would like, I am a virgo… So like perfectionism and planning is sort of my thing… Anyway, I had a point I wanted to make and I’m already getting distracted, see, this is exactly why stream of consciousness posts so rarely work for me!

The thing is, the thing I kind of want to talk about today is a thing that is talked about (I certainly have mentioned it several times before) a lot, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am going to mention it again. Libraries. They are important and they are under threat. I love libraries, I think they’re hugely important aspects of our communities and they need funding and they need saving and they need to stay. I seem to talk about it a lot when in front of a camera But…  Today I kind of came to the realisation that there are many libraries that really don’t help themselves.

Let me explain.

I am fairly lucky in the sense that I live in an area where there are several libraries fairly near to me and thanks to an agreement among them, I can use any one of them I choose. So I literally can stroll into a random one and hire books if I so wish. That’s pretty cool.

Here comes your first bit of back story.
Recently, there has been a bit of an uproar because Bath’s Central Library and one of the smaller services in a town on the outskirts of Bath are about to have their library services cut and the two libraries moved. The local council would like you to believe they haven’t made a decision on this yet, but they don’t seem to have told their marketing department this. Ooops. Anyway, the people in Bath city centre took it upon themselves to save the central library and serve the council with some pretty scary legal stuff, but the people on the outskirts of town could not care any less that their library service is being cut which for a while really bugged me because its probably the library I use the most, that was until today.

Second bit of backstory.
Through the summer and ending this month is a library run scheme called the Reading Passport where you get the chance to win a load of books if you happen to collect stamps from certain decades in your passport. Genius idea, I love reading and being a stationary nerd, I quite like stamps too.
I mean, check it out, I am so nearly done! (Though sadly, won’t be done in time to actually enter the competition.)

Only five stamps to go and my reading passport is complete!

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

Here comes the bit where the two backstories come together. I visited the smaller library today partly because I was in that part of town, partly because I wanted to try and get an extra stamp in my passport and partly because I wanted to see how well advertised the consultation on the move was, seeing as no one seemed to care.
Firstly, the library was packed, which was great to see.
Secondly, the two librarians on duty were more concerned with chatting to each other about their holidays than helping any of the people trying to use an out of order machine to hire out books or put away anything that had been returned. Not so great.
Thirdly there were no posters or consultation forms and when I asked, neither of the librarians seemed at all bothered about the fact that their jobs might not exist soon.
Finally, when I approached them with my reading passport and a selection of books, despite the reading passport having posters around the place and loads more attention than the actual important consultation about the library being moved into a much smaller space, neither of them knew what it was or what they had to do with it.
And there I was wondering why people are so passive about library services being cut. I love libraries, I know that one sour experience will not change my love for libraries, I know they are important and they are used, sometimes quite well, but honestly, if the people working in them don’t care, why should the wider community?

Though I love the concept of libraries as a quiet space for education, the collecting of books and archives, a study area and a community hub, if they want to survive, they have to change. If they want more people using them and engaging with them, the people in them need to take notice of schemes they’re running and engage in them too, they need to be attentive, no a library isn’t a shop, but god damn it, you are there to provide a service, so when an elderly lady is trying to hire some books, offer to book them out for her, don’t just watch her struggle with the self service machine and if there is a threat to that service, maybe be vocal, tell people where they can get information and send their opinions and for heaven’s sake, display the damn consultation papers. I want libraries to survive, I want to join the fight to save the two that are currently under threat in my area, but they need to want to save themselves too.

Yeah, I have no idea what this post is.
I should not write without planning in future.

Leah out.

*edit*
This is a complete stream of consciousness and is in no way meant to bash librarians – I always wanted to be one after all! It is merely me venting my frustration at the apathy exhibited by two particular librarians, who I’m sure were just having a bad day.
Also, if you are interested in helping the residents save the libraries, there is a consultation on at the moment via bathnes.gov.uk and Save Bath Library have a very informative Facebook group!

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6 thoughts on “Probably a broken record but…

  1. I like it when your consciousness streams.
    “Libraries gave us power
    Then work came and made us free
    What price now for a shallow piece of dignity”

  2. Great post Leah, although I wish you hadn’t felt like you had to write it. I’ve read about so many libraries closing or having their hour cut in England. Thankfully it hasn’t become as much of a problem here in the U.S. *knock on wood*. That is a real shame about the two librarians you interacted with. I was a children’s librarian for 26 years before I became disabled, and it truly was my dream job. You probably would have had the exact opposite problem with me in that I’d be chatting your ear off about programs and books. I have to say that during my career I worked with some pretty spectacular people who really cared about the community we were serving. However, there were a few that had bad attitudes and basically did as little work as they could. I really hope the two libraries in your library are saved. It would be a sad world indeed without these institutions where you can not only check out books, dvds, magazines, etc… but also attend free programs for both children and adults and have free access to computers.They’re also one of the best places for the community to gather. Phew! I could keep going but I’d better stop now. Besides, with you Leah, I think I’m preaching to the choir!💁🏻

    • I’m so jealous that you used to be a librarian! That was always my dream job! Sadly, most libraries in the UK are run by volunteers, so it isn’t even a career option anymore. I’m sure the two I spoke to yesterday were having a bad day or were just done with all the cuts to the service and just couldn’t be bothered with it any more, but I would hate for the community to give up on the library because of their attitude, I’ve met so many wonderful librarians over the years, so it was a bit of a shock to me! Libraries are so important not just for readers like me who pop in to grab a casual read, but for communities as a whole, I’m not sure what me venting my frustration at the apathy surrounding that particular library will do but I had to get it off my chest! It looks like the council have made their minds up already about the two libraries, but I live in hope, the small one I visited yesterday serves a medium sized town, but was so useful to my mum when she became disabled and could go there for courses and to meet people, the other one is the main city library and the main archive for the whole region, so it would be a real shame to have the services there cut, but I guess that is the world we live in, I should be thankful that at least there are a number of libraries in my area and I can visit others. I’m just so frustrated with my interaction in there!

      • Has the library system in the U.K. as a whole always been primarily run by volunteers Leah? If so, that’s really a shame. There are basically four tiers of library workers here in the states but they all get paid:
        Pages- Usually high school students or retirees who shelve library materials.
        Clerks or assistants: Work on the circulation desk checking out/checking in materials and answering basic questions. Requires a high school degree.
        Assistant Heads of Departments: (I was Assistant Head of Children’s Services) Recquires at least a Bachelor’s Degree. Works with Dept. Head in putting together and implementing programs, creating displays, and ordering books, etc.
        Dept. Heads, Assistant Directors, Directors: Requires a Masters Degree in Library Science.

      • No, only in the past ten years or so where Councils have had to cut back on money so haven’t employed people. Schools, colleges etc will have paid staff that look after the libraries, but in cities and towns, very few of the staff are employed, many of them are volunteers, which is why so many libraries, especially rural ones have limited opening hours or rely on a mobile service. It is concerning as local authorities get little to no funding from central government as it is, so the situation can only get worse.

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