Big Issue readers tell us exactly why we need to save our libraries

Lord John Bird will be presenting hard, quantifiable evidence on sustainable funding at a library roundtable meeting at Westminster – we are sharing your experiences, anecdotes and stories about how libraries have given you a hand-up

The Big Issue battle to save libraries is heading straight to the heart of Westminster.

In July, the great and good from the libraries community – including the government’s Libraries Taskforce, library information and association CILIPLocal Government AssociationArts Council England and British Library – attended a roundtable meeting to discuss a sustainable funding method to keep libraries open for the long-term.

A total of 816 centres have closed their doors since 2010 and they continued to be under threat with cash-strapped councils looking to tighten belts wherever they can.

A follow-up roundtable is pencilled in for October 30 where Big Issue founder Lord John Bird – who’s leading the charge – will be presenting hard, quantifiable evidence to Libraries Minister Michael Ellis MP and Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP. Here is some of your evidence.

Libraries are part of the threads that stitch us together.

I’m 59, and when I was a child I wasn’t allowed to read books at home and was never enrolled at a library. So I would stay late at school and go to the school library. When I got to uni I used libraries a lot.  And now I often go to talks or workshops at libraries. They have this calm, comforting atmosphere.

As a parent I enrolled my children at the age of two at our local library. They could take 20 books out at a time. My son often would… clearing the shelves of his latest passion.

Oh happy days! He is now 32 and a junior doctor. Libraries are part of the threads that stitch us together.

Wendy Errington, Whitley Bay

My local library has been invaluable to me. When my marriage broke up I found myself a flat to rent. Whilst I could manage my basic expenses, things like broadband and laptops were a luxury I couldn’t afford. Having access to the internet every day was vital to sort out my bills and apply for new jobs. I’m about to start my new management role, which I applied for and completed assessment for, at my local library.

Anne, Hampshire

They gave me a quiet place and a desk to study at, which I didn’t have at home, and a way to read books that my family couldn’t afford to buy.

Via Twitter, @EledaEdwin

Why save libraries? My children learned to read in one and are still members. I have five loans out at the moment as paperbacks and downloads. I meet the whole spectrum of society when returning a book or getting my compostable bags: from toddlers to the more mature, we all feel at home.

Via Twitter, @FrancescaEmmett

I have depression, reading or pleasure is vital for me – stops my brain going over and over something bad. But there’s no way I could afford to buy enough books to keep me going

E Fitz-Moriaty

I am over 70 and first discovered my local library on my way home from school around age 13. Like most Scottish working-class families, we had very few books in our home. It was the freedom to choose a book – any book – that I think was the making of me. It didn’t matter that I didn’t choose that well (initially) but as I see it now, it was the first time in my life there was nobody monitoring what I did or what I chose.

Diana Dodd, Edinburgh

DID YOU KNOW…

The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

My local library was crucial to my mental health as a new mother. I have no family locally, library sing-a-longs and story times allowed me to socialise, to meet new mums and talk. I structured my week around these events. They motivated me to get out of the house and this helped my recovery after a caesarean delivery. Most importantly, singing and hearing stories at the library allowed me to be a ‘good mother’. There seemed so many ways of doing it wrong as a new parent (feeding, routines, plastics etc) but singing with my baby and listening to stories helped her development and felt great.

Elaine Walters, via email

Libraries have been a store of books such as I could never have at home. Librarians have helped me find books of the kind I need for a particular task (eg curtain-making).

The mile walk to the library with my mother and brothers as a child was a thrilling time. I could see books displayed which I had never thought of reading; authors strange and unknown to me; illustrations which fascinated me. The library broadened my mind.

Recently I was in a very boring and bleak little town in the far north of Scotland waiting for a ferry. The museum and information centre was closed as it was a Monday, so I sought out the library to spend some time there. There was an interesting art exhibition where I bought a couple of birthday presents for friends, and it provided a light, colourful and extremely pleasant, safe place for me to read and rest until it was time to travel on.

Libraries are a vital part of our society; our culture. We are a more ignorant and impoverished country without them.

Ann Milston, Morayshire

When I was very young, just after the Second World War, we lived near our village library. My mum worked part-time as an assistant and I became an avid reader.

When I was nine, the county librarian – an imposing but friendly figure – visited our school to tell us about Arthur Ransome’s books – Swallows and Amazons and all the others. About half a dozen of our class of 30 were hooked on the spot, and ran to the library after school. In those days there were few paperbacks, and a hardback book typically cost twelve shillings and sixpence in old money, 50 Mars bars or £35 today.

In retirement, I began to read about social issues. Even in these hard times, and now with the aid of technology, a book review in The Big Issue or New Statesman can bring a new book to our local library tagged with my name in response to a reservation.

The social benefits of the library are clear. They have helped to make me the taxpayer, voluntary worker and charity donor that I am today.

Richard Reid, Norfolk

Please send us your own thoughts and anecdotes. Every statement matters. Get in touch at editorial@bigissue.com or on Twitter, on Facebook or on Instagram.

Image: Royalty-Free/Corbis