Sunday, 6 February 2011

Saving any library is

important. It is very important. It may also be hard work.
There are lots of tiny specialist libraries that most people remain quite unaware of unless they happen to have a special interest in the subject matter. I once applied for a position as a librarian at a mining company. It was only a small library. The position was very much part time but the library was important to those people who worked there. Now they probably have all the information on line.
Universities tend to have specialist libraries. The Australian National University has a number of libraries. I frequented some and not others. I always sat in the same seat in the Law School library. This was by request of both staff and students. They wanted to know where to find me. I was the student who sorted out linguistic problems. I knew about the mysteries of the "bell curve" and other oddities. I had discovered the inner workings of the library before the first class in "Legal Writing and Research" and I was perhaps the only student in my year who realised that LW&R was actually the most important subject we did and not, as most students seemed to think, a waste of time. It was the subject that taught students how to use the library. If you could do that then you could find any information you needed to find. Now of course most of the material is "on-line". It was going "on-line" when I left. My youngest nephew has most of his legal materials "on-line".
I look after a small and highly specialised library as well. It is the library of our Handknitters' Guild. When I took it over it was a collection of secondhand books that had been donated. Occasionally the committee would agree to actually buy a book. People would borrow the new books. The rest were left to gather dust. Nobody seemed to be too sure what was there. There was no catalogue. A little - well a lot - of work has remedied that. I argued for money, supported by some of the younger and newer members. Now there is a regular sum set aside for the purchase of books and I choose what we need in consultation with the members who, like me, read the reviews. The library is now used. It is very well used. Instead of talk of closing it altogether there is talk of how we can rearrange the two steel cupboards to make more room for books. People have joined the group simply in order to have access to the library.
I think this all says a great deal about all libraries. Libraries need new materials the way humans need oxygen and plants need water.
Tiny specialist libraries like ours, like the one belonging to the Embroiderers' Guild, the one belonging to the Handspinners and Weavers', a music society, a gardening club, an engineering society and a genealogy society, all need to preserve some old materials and to gather new materials. It costs time and it costs money but what these libraries are saving is information. The received information of the members is important but, in an increasingly busy and time poor society, information also needs to be located where it can be accessed by as many people as possible.
If we start to lose libraries then we will lose information. It is not, as it once would have been, going to be passed on by word of mouth. By no means all the information needed is available on the internet.
We may not even know we need the information until we read it in a book. We need to save libraries to save ourselves.

8 comments:

Caroline said...

Yes, here in the UK it was Save Our Libraries Day with many protests against the proposed library cuts. Here in Glasgow we have great library provision and one of my favourite all time places is the Mitchell Library which boasts one of the most important collections on puppet theatre and obviously a labour of love.(http://theworldthroughwoodeneyes.co.uk/). It really is worth a virtual visit. Great blogging downunder!

virtualquilter said...

I feel bad destroying a single book which is falling to bits, even if I have a new copy! As for destroying a collection of books ...

Anonymous said...

The whole business is absolutely crazy. Nobody has considered even the short term consequences and the long term consequences do not bear thinking about. We would be better off closing schools (once the kids have been taught the basics of reading). Libraries are the life-blood of any community.
You need to speak up more Cat - you have the right with ILY behind you.
Back to lurking, Sage

Rachel Fenton said...

"Don't concentrate on the finger"...as Bruce Lee said; it's all very well saying save our libraries but people need to be told how. What can regular folk do to stop their libraries being googled aside.

Anonymous said...

Look back at what Cat wrote about protesting...it works. Bob C-S

shandy said...

Yes, very sad to think of libraries closing. The little library in my village is such a hub of activity for people of all ages, even without considering the books it holds.

Ms. Yingling said...

Libraries are in trouble all over. Sometimes the powers that be think they can get rid of all the librarians and keep the library open. I have a book at home that I was going to clear out that is on the history of handknitting. I feel like I should send it to you. If you contact me, I'll look up the title. I may have another as well!

Ann Best said...

I do hope, I really hope, we don't lose libraries completely! I don't think we will. There is a lot in libraries that I don't think can be put on e-readers. And there are so many other functions that libraries perform!

Good post to get us thinking about all the good in our world that needs to be preserved!