1 What has been lost
“It’s hard not to feel utterly despondent at the current plight of public libraries. Along with the NHS and the BBC, our libraries are some of the few truly remarkable British institutions left. So often absolutely ordinary in appearance, a good library should offer escape routes down the most extraordinary avenues, pathways into different worlds from the one you’ve left outside. Ridding our villages, towns and cities of libraries, which are essential in shaping a nation’s consciousness, seems like a direct attack on the soul of the country.”
Nicky Wire, of the Manic Street Preachers, who opened the Central Library in 2009, in an interview with Robin Turner in February 2011.
2 What is in danger of being lost
“I still remember the first library ticket I ever had. It must have been about 1957. My mother took me to the public library just off Battersea Park Road and enrolled me. I was thrilled. All those books, and I was allowed to borrow whichever I wanted! And I remember some of the first books I borrowed and fell in love with: the Moomin books by Tove Jansson; a French novel for children called A Hundred Million Francs; why did I like that? Why did I read it over and over again, and borrow it many times? I don’t know. But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, you can become their friend and share their adventures in your own imagination.
And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?”
Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, in a speech made in Oxford in January 2011.