A Public library in the UK is defined as a collections of books and other informational resources maintained by local authorities for the benefit of the public.
They date back over 150 years, with many services provided by public libraries still free. Chetham’s Library in Manchester, founded in 1653, is the oldest surviving public library in Britain
But with council spending on libraries decreasing rapidly – down from £1billion in 2009 to closer to £750milllion ten years later, what’s next?
Cheshire West Libraries
In Cheshire West we are lucky, we haven’t lost our libraries. There are dozens of available libraries in the region, including a mobile library operating right now. In Cheshire West we also have an extremely close working relationship with Libraries in neighbouring Cheshire East, meaning that we have over 1million books available to us.
The region issues out 100,000 book per month. They support 2000 hours of computer use per month.
Moving with the times Cheshire West libraries also facilitate the reading of around 7000 eBooks each month, and 5000 eAudio through an app called Borrow Box. Plus E magazines are also now available.
With access to all of these excellent resources, and availability in the palm of your hand via an order and collect service, you could be forgiven for mistaking the library offering in the region for a premium online subscription service, not something available to the general public at large.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the library sector across the UK and in Cheshire West. They had to rethink and look at the world of online in new, fresh ways. The book clubs began to use Ebooks and met in video calls. But our libraries can’t be allowed to become an online only resource.
You can’t get the scents and feel of turning a page in a good book on a cosy autumn evening on your tablet. People will still want to read physical books. People use their local libraries for community support through a range of community groups, educational resources, story time for local children, and so much more.
If we in the UK start to lose our grip on the tradition of the local library, I fear that we will never be able to get it back, no matter how much we miss it when it’s gone.
Check out the curated list of online resources to discover all the fantastic possibilities awaiting you; from art to music, film to theatre, the possibilities are endless.
You will also find information on a range of activities and resources to help you lead happier and healthier lives.
The Future of the Library post-pandemic
“We see libraries as social hubs which contribute to societal wellbeing. This builds on the sense of renewed community spirit which many communities experienced during the pandemic.”
Most of us can find a library quite close to us, often within walking distance. Often there will be one in the same town as you. Lending a book from the library is, of course, much better for the environment than buying that book from an online store.
A book in a library will, on average have a lifespan of between 5-10 years, with between 50-100 total reads. How fantastic that is for the environment, and how on-trend with the reduce, reuse, recycle lifestyle that we need to lead to help save the planet.
Libraries can act as an excellent way to draw people into town centres, and out of their homes to experience their local areas and immerse themselves in the community. They support a range of cultural and creative activities, and post-pandemic I think we all probably need some of that in our lives.
Even thinking about a library evokes a memory. Just like your favourite book will bring forth memories of the first time you read it, or the people you spoke to about, the act of getting your hands on a book can do the same.
I myself when I think of the library am reminded of two overarching memories; one was going with my younger sister to the local library in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester and engrossing myself into the reference section while my sister was reading children’s storybooks. Books on macramé and baking fascinated a young me, and that’s why I was able to throw myself in at the deep end when macramé was repopulated recently – and probably why my grammar is so rubbish.
My other memory is of when my own son was young. He loved his books, we used to take him to our local public library in Broughton all the time so he could pick out something new to immerse himself in. The only problem was that he loved his books so much that we had to resort to purchasing them because his appetite for fiction was beginning to overtake the available stock – my son is now in his 20’s ad writes for a living, and I like to think that his love for the written word might have started from trips to the Broughton library together when he was little.
The main library in Chester today is in Storyhouse. A place I visit often to eat, drink, watch theatre, run stalls, and be merry, but despite that I have never ever borrowed a book! This is going to change though. Housed inside of a Grade II listed building, the old Odeon site, Storyhouse has been transformed into a sustainable complex where theatre, film, and literature go hand in hand under one roof.
Storyhouse has the longest opening hours of any public library in the whole of the UK, it is open every day right up until 11pm and boasts a range of awards under its belt. We are also excited that it will soon be the host of our Climate Café each month.
You can even now get involved in community activities like litter picking in the regions libraries, as you can now check out litter pick equipment on your library card.
We need to love and nurture our libraries because once they’re gone they’re gone. Truly sustainable businesses in the heart of our communities.
“One of the things about libraries is that they’re for people whenever they need them. At some stages of life, this is more than at other times. Same with people – some people absolutely depend on us, others may not visit for a decade. But that’s fine. We’re here for you when you need us. We’re here for everyone. We’re free and we’ll welcome you regardless of your age, background, spending power, career or anything else. And long may it remain so.”Ian Anstice, Locality Librarian
– Helen Tandy