Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Killyleagh Library is worth fighting for

One of the great scientific thinkers of the twentieth century, and possibly the most prolific author in history, had this to say on the subject of public libraries:-

"I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."

Hear, hear. On Monday evening I attended a public meeting in Killyleagh's town hall, which was called to harvest opinions and ideas, to formulate strategy and generally to mobilise the village in support of our local public library, which (along with nine others in rural areas) is threatened with closure.

The meeting was well attended and feelings were running high. No wonder: local libraries are one of the few institutions, with the demise of so many sub post offices, corner shops, banks and village halls, which can still claim to be essential components of that most battered and besieged of notions- a sense of community.

This is true of any library, anywhere; but for various reasons, Killyleagh is especially proud of its library. Firstly, Sir Hans Sloane, whose natural history collection formed the basis of the first permanent collection of the British Museum, and whose unique collection of books did likewise for the British Library within it, was a native of the village: his bust, by Michael Rysbrack (above), is in the British Library's foyer and his statue is in Killyleagh. Secondly, the library's position, in the shadow of the oldest continuously-inhabited castle in Ireland, and at the head of one of County Down's prettiest main streets, makes it potentially the jewel in the crown of Libraries NI. Surely both of these are in its favour.

The sense of purpose evident at yesterday's gathering - steered, stirred and stood-to by the redoubtable Clive Scoular - augers well for the library's chances of survival. Lots of concrete action is already in the pipeline, and I'll post further as things develop.

Meantime, if you want to help fight the good fight, 5WAYS TO DO SO are listed on the Save Killyleagh Library website here.


PS: The quote is by Isaac Asimov, who also said, incidentally, 'I write for the same reason I breathe.'
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