The Library Book by Anita Anand, Julian Barnes, Bella Bathurst, Alan Bennett and others
|The Library Book by Anita Anand, Julian Barnes, Bella Bathurst, Alan Bennett and others|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: The closure of public libraries is a hugely important issue at the moment, though it often seems to be swept under the carpet with politicians trying to hush any militant librarians. This book is a wonderful defence of everything that is good and vital about the public library service, and makes an interesting and enjoyable read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: February 2012|
|Publisher: Profile Books|
I had better begin by saying that I had a vested interest in liking this book since I am a chartered librarian myself and so am wholeheartedly in support of saving our nation's public libraries. But you don't need to be a librarian to enjoy this book. It is rich with anecdotes from some wonderful writers and makes a pleasant read whether you're keen to save libraries or not.
It's made up of a wide selection of short essays (and the odd fictional item) about libraries and books, stories and reading and the transformative effects they have had on various writers' lives. There are some big names here, like Alan Bennett, Susan Hill, Zadie Smith and Lionel Shriver. I liked the variety in the voices as you read, and because each essay is quite short you can dip in and out of the book very easily. Some are more basic than others, easily accessible and stating the obvious, but some are incredibly thoughtful and if I was the sort of person who let pencils anywhere near my books then I might have been tempted to underline bits here and there.
I liked Seth Godwin's call to libraries to change and evolve so as to survive the current funding crisis. He writes at the end of his piece we need librarians more than we ever did. What we don't need are mere clerks who guard dead paper. Librarians are too important to be a dwindling voice in our culture. For the right librarian, this is the chance of a lifetime. There are interesting pieces from authors who read voraciously as children thanks to their local libraries, and there's an interesting article by Bella Bathurst which talks about the kind of books that get stolen, what people read during the war, and even the romances that developed thanks to Barnsley's mobile library service!
I find myself frustrated at the suggestions that the work of libraries should be taken up by volunteers. Quite who this army of willing workers is remains to be seen, and just how much they know about the hard work and dedication that goes into running a library behind the scenes is anyone's guess. I only know that libraries have played an important role in my life since I was a little girl, and that I spent much of my childhood taking out my full quota of books every week, reading and re-reading them until the next visit, and that those books fired a passion in me for stories, took me on adventures and through a wide range of emotions, and left me feeling richer. So reading this book, hearing other people's deep love of libraries and seeing the differences they have made in people's lives was, for me, a lovely reading experience. So, do buy a copy to help support The Reading Agency, but perhaps also you should go and borrow it from your local library as well, or see what else you can find in there that takes your fancy...
Book lovers may also enjoy reading Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
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