Thing 15: Advocacy for Libraries

untitledAs a child my first choice of Christmas or birthday present would irrefutably be books every time. I can genuinely recall more banal details from the short yet exultingly sweet period of my life that coincided with kellogs cereal giving away free Roald Dahl books (aged around six) than any other time (and I went on the Disney Cruise Ship). Thanks kellogs, it was a magical time.

 

I’m going to take you back in time now, back to the days of rationed goods. No, I’m not talking about the war, I’m simply referring to the days where things had to be tracked down, the desire for a particular thing, and we’ll run with the idea of books here, demanded a meticulously planned traipse around the shops. Even after marching around your local shopping centre like a military maniac, said desired item was never guaranteed to materialise, especially if it was perhaps an older or more obscure title. Some several attempts later one would be reluctantly forced to call off the mission and would consign the title to the wish list of the mind and if the searcher was lucky enough, perhaps a year or two down the line, their beady scavenger eyes may gracefully skim it’s surface in some unexpected situation. Oh the joy one feels, the utter exultation when a yearned for treasure falls into one’s hands – “I’ll take it” – we greedily exclaim in a mad moment of pure triumph where all reason goes out of the window and no cost could deter this book lover from their well earned reward.

 

Though amazon and ebay have made the process of sourcing our beloved books so much quicker and easier, I can’t help but mourn the loss of the serendipitous ubiquity of books. Despite this romantic process which elicited both the depths of despair and the highest form of joy there was one big event in my life that offered stability and consolation throughout and upon it’s discovery, it was slightly like when you fall in love with a delicious man and you know from that point on, as long as this man is by your side forever you can never be truly unhappy. Things just can’t be that bad as long as you have each other. To me, that was how I felt when I was introduced to the public library.

 

“So basically you can take any book you want and all you have to do is keep it safe and return it when you’re finished?” I asked in disbelief. The real shocker was when I discovered you could order books in from other libraries if you’re local one didn’t have what you wanted. I was in awe. I no longer had to contend with the unpredictable cycle of unfulfilled desires. After a rather convoluted introduction, this beautiful moment of realisation is when I became a library advocate. As a child from a more fortunate background (don’t get me wrong there were no lamborghinis but there were also no empty cupboards) libraries weren’t a necessary service for my family however once I discovered them I was bound for life.

I love that Niamh’s post highlighted that advocacy doesn’t have to refer to regimented campaigns and structured groups (which of course are fantastic) but that advocacy can simply mean spreading your passion to as many people as possible. there’s nothing as convincing and contagious as a person who is passionate about something. This is amplified when that person is some one we look up to or perhaps some one who has been helpful – enter the librarian! And its true, it wasn’t until towards the end of primary school that I discovered the power of libraries thanks to a friend’s mum who was a librarian – I had never really cared for them and hadn’t seen what they could do for me. Her zealous affection encouraged me to go and find out what it was all about and I was a convert instantly. I couldn’t agree more with Niamh that we need to shout about the power and strength of libraries, particularly those that lay at the heart of communities serving vulnerable members of society and nurturing our future generations, enabling a democratic education.

I have long been a follower of most of the organisations, charities and campaigns that were mentioned in Niamh’s post on Twitter and it’s inspiring hearing about the work they put into fighting cuts and advocating libraries. Particularly impressive is the campaign run by EBLIDA which fights for copyright reform to be revised, allowing a much more sufficient and sustainable way for libraries to provide e-book services amongst other things. I have also followed the Sieghart story avidly and felt grateful that influential people will back important causes like the library provision of Britain.

Like a child is a sweet shop I often greedily eye up all of the ways I can get involved with my local community to endorse libraries and have recently found some excellent opportunities however I’ve had to remind myself that working full time and doing my masters alongside leaves very little room for much else. It’s a sad realisation but it’s imperative that I recognise this before over-committing. This week’s task has been a positive reflection on why I was initially interested in this career path; at this point I would like to say to myself that once I have downsized my commitments (i.e. finished my masters) I will strive to devote my voice to the cause of libraries in some way. As a corporate librarian, my job can be stimulating in so many ways but I believe that one derives an exclusive sort of pleasure from the type of unpaid work which millions of angels carry out in our country every day. Advocacy campaigns and local initiatives can achieve so much for communities and resonate with people on a much deeper level. Let’s infect as many people as possible with our passion for libraries.

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