I am not a heavy of particularly frequent library user. I borrow the odd travel book, talking book and the odd novel. My children, however, are much more engaged with the local library in Market Harborough and frequently we have dozens of books home for them. Reading books for the youngest, increasingly reference books for the elder ones to research school and other projects.
Whenever I visit I am always impressed by the volume and variety of activity in our library. People of all ages are there quietly reading, browing, using the computer facilities. There are reading groups, mother and toddler groups and health check events. The staff are helpful, knowledgeable and courteous.
I am not going to over-egg this and say the library is the hub of the local community - but it is a centre for social interactivity at a time when fewer and fewer such facilities are available to the broad public. It is a resource that is clearly well used and appreciated by its patrons.
I am delighted therefore that Leicestershire County Council has promised that no libraries will be closed as it seeks to balance its books in the face of cuts in grants from central government.
Others have not been so lucky. In Oxfordshire, where I grew up and was a more enthusiastic library user, the library service is at risk of having to close 20 of its 43 libraries. This news drew this passionate and powerful response from author Philip Pullman.
Pullman outlined the myriad reasons why closing Oxfordshire's libraries would be a cultural catastrophe, and I recommend you read his speech if you have not. This final plea struck a chord with me: "I love it (the public library) because its presence in a town or city reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight."
There are few things in life that deliver simple delight quite so consistently as a book, and the world would be a far better place if we all made more time for reading, understanding and learning.
Politicians tell us that in these difficult times, they have to make choices. Well, as with the cut of Bookstart funding see post below, they are making the wrong choices.
The threat to our libraries is nothing more than another campaign of cultural vandalism from a government that seems hell bent on using the budget deficit as an ideological crowbar which it will use to remove the state from critical areas of our lives, even areas as constructive and civilised as libraries. Please support the Save our Libraries campaign.