There once was a time in my childhood when being in a library required utter silence. Not so much as a loud whisper was tolerated and certainly no singing or group chatter. How different things are these days – and how refreshing. Libraries are now very much the centre of communities, and certainly in the village where I live. This transformation has evolved as a matter of necessity with the demise and closure of so many libraries in recent times. You could call it diversification but I would see it more as an exploration of other opportunities to provide a service to community. For example, my local library hosts various clubs and groups: chess, drama, Scrabble, mum and baby singalong, computer surgeries, art groups, to name a handful. And, of course, there is still the opportunity to borrow books.
Yesterday was National Libraries Day and it was uplifting to see how many people attended the various craft and reading events (I read from Winnie the Pooh for a while to at least one enthralled child), despite the appalling weather. Our patron of several years, Sir Terry Wogan, died a week ago and it is difficult to envisage future festivals and events without his engaging bonhomie and humour. But the library will live on and hopefully flourish and resound with the sounds of people engaging with one another and enjoying a communal spirit.
Sound was soundly speared
Inside the reading rooms,
Where speech was sentenced to signs,
The biggest of which said:
QUIET written quite LARGE.
The austerity of authority ruled.
And reading required solitude,
An isolation of spirit.
But now the books breathe anew,
Airing views. And people choose
To talk and chatter and not confuse
The library with a doomed tomb.