in the rose library Heather Stillufsen

Heather Stillufsen

One writer once noted that if you were told you could go into town and find a big shop where all the books were free, you would run there. And yet that’s just what most towns have. You can often order books you wish to read at the library, and the authors still get a token payout (more if people regularly order). And usually you can borrow up to 10 books, and return them to any library in the same authority. Enter your postcode if you live in a village to find your nearest mobile library.

Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one. Neil Gaiman

Librarians are just like search engines, except they smile and talk to me, and they don’t give me paid-for advertising when they are trying to help. And they have actual hearts. Matt Haig

who keeps demolishing our libraries?

Many historic libraries have recently been demolished, leading to many local historians being aghast at the reasons why. Birmingham Central Library was not the prettiest of buildings, but it was demolished a few years back, in order to build city office space. And nearby, Nuneaton’s iconic library that has served the community for 50 years is about to be demolished, to make way for a new building and offices. The building could easily be retrofitted, and would preserve a building by Sir Frederick Gibberd, who designed Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

why are public libraries not more popular?

So in a country where many people are choosing between heating and eating, why are buildings full of free books not more popular? One reason is simply because the books are not ones that people want to read. If you visit a really good indie bookstore and find the latest releases or those small booklets full of recommended books, it’s likely that your library choices don’t match up.

The librarians are the people responsible for choosing library books. Now that’s good in one sense (as you won’t find Trump’s autobiography). But some libraries can be a little ‘stuffy’ and not always on the ball on what’s popular. For example, a vegan is going to know the hippest books in town, but a librarian likely does not, so you might find they don’t stock the ones you like. Likewise, you may be passionate about new urbanist town planning and find some of the American books on the subject fascinating. But most libraries likely don’t know about them.

The good news is that most libraries have ‘stock suggestion forms’, you may have to ask for them. You can then pen down the names of books you’d like to see. Some people donate books to libraries, so you may get lucky. Most libraries don’t stock self-published books, but they may make exceptions for say local books by historians of special significance to the area. The reason for this is that the books must carry the proper imprint labels etc, to be legally able to lend out and give a profit percentage to the author.

free libraries for blind & partially sighted-people

Not all the books are brilliant, but there are many online libraries for blind and partially-sighted people, and you just return the books freepost to order more. Listening Books is one of the most popular. Living Paintings is one (touch-to-see books for children and adults).

one man visits every library in England

an English library journey

An English Library Journey is the story of one writer who decided to obtain a membership card for every library authority in England. Across 10 years, he journeys from Solihull to Slough and from Cleveland to Cornwall, to enroll at libraries of all shapes and sizes. From monuments to Art Decor to a converted corset factory. Engaging us with anecdotes Bill-Bryson-style, he is as interested in the people finds in libraries as the buildings themselves. A book to be treasured by library fans.

The first lending libraries began to appear in the 18th century, and were run independently on a subscription basis. They were housed in often lovely premises, many of those remaining listed buildings.

John Bevis has spent most of his working life with books: designing, printing and publishing them, and proof-reading them at Victoria & Albert Museum or selling them at Whitechapel Art Gallery Bookshop. He also has bought books for a lbrary agency. He divides his time between Shropshire and London.

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