Thursday, February 4, 2016

The loss of libraries is another surefire way to entrench inequality Mary O'Hara Mary O'Hara

 ‘Having a library within walking distance of home was a way for a young girl from a poor background to access the same breadth of reading material as anyone else.’ Photograph: Getty Images

As someone who grew up in a home without books, no spare cash to buy them and no tradition of reading bedtime stories, my local library offered something unique and indispensable. It’s hard to think of anything that brought me more joy as a primary school-aged child than walking back from the Falls Road library in west Belfast with a bundle of books.

Having a library within walking distance of home was a way for a young girl from a poor background to access the same breadth of reading material as anyone else – at no expense. It stripped away at least some of the disadvantage that came with being from a low-income family. So every time I hear of another library closure – and there were more than 100 last year alone in Scotland, Wales and England, according to official figures – it hits a nerve. The loss of libraries is simply another surefire way to entrench inequality.
From providing books for people of all ages and backgrounds, to kids clubs and hubs for older people, to computer terminals that those with no access to the internet can use to find job vacancies, libraries are about as democratic and diverse as is possible to imagine. When properly funded and resourced they are educational and social anchors in communities everywhere. Yet, despite knowing all this, in the past five years the relentless funding constraints placed on local authorities have seen library budgets slashed by an astounding amount.  Read more...



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