Yesterday, I went to the local library, for the first time in at least five years. I used to go there regularly – I borrowed ten books at a time, which I had for up to three weeks. I might renew a few or I might go more often, but I used and appreciated it. And then, as things got more worrying at home, I couldn’t read books any more and I stopped borrowing them – I didn’t stop buying them and had an awful lot of unread books, most of which I’ve caught with by now, but that’s another matter.
In the intervening years, local governments charged with saving money have had their eyes on libraries. Some have had their hours cut, some have been closed, but public opinion has kept most of them open. I happened to have ten minutes in hand and was right by the library, so went in. Taking out the books is self-service now, but I knew my card must be out of date, so went to the desk and it was duly renewed, and I went to look at books. I was rather shocked. There are well under half the books that there used to be. In the case of non-fiction, however, I’d say it’s down to a fifth. Several double-backed shelves have been removed and the remaining ones are barely half full. In fiction, about a quarter of the space is taken with crime novels and the large print books are now on a shelf or two instead of a whole bookcase. The children’s section is also much smaller than it used to be.
I’ve taken out four books and will visit weekly from now on. I’m sorry I haven’t been more supportive.