Wednesday, 6 July 2011

OK, I've Lifted My Ban On The Word 'Relevant' ... *


As a writer with a lifetime of work in media ranging from books to digital product, I've no problem with the idea that libraries should provide access to new means of delivery. But since books have largely been the means of preserving and passing on our heritage of knowledge from the past, I think libraries have an equally valid function in actively fostering awareness of them. Recently I decided the word ‘relevant’ should be banned from all conversations about art or literature. But here goes anyway. I think fostering awareness of books may be one of the most relevant functions of public libraries today.

The argument that books are nothing but a delivery medium is simplistic. Books - like theatre, television, video games, radio plays - embody the creative input of those who combine to produce them. If you can’t see that, you’re missing the endless ways in which generations of authors, designers, illustrators and bookbinders have applied themselves to the fundamental, fascinating, question of reconciling form and content. Which is the shared preoccupation of all creative artists.

The point is that libraries will certainly survive. It's public libraries that are at risk; and free or subsidised borrowing. It's a matter of preserving choice. Otherwise we may find ourselves in a society in which the only people with opportunities to access books (as opposed to content) are those rich enough to buy them - and to buy suitable environments in which to read them in comfort and quiet.

* .... for this post only.

2 comments:

  1. Absolutely, Felicity, couldn´t agree with you more. A great deal of my early education in books and what to read came from public libraries, and skilled librarians who advised me. Any society which loses those treasures threatens literacy and culture, and cannot call itself civilised.

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  2. One problem is that people who approve of, but don't use, public libraries have no idea how much is involved in terms of fostering empowerment, awareness and respect. The design/use of the buildings themselves as public spaces, the understanding of catalogues and indexes, the necessity for space and silence, respect for communally-owned material, the levels of trust and responsibility involved in the loan system .... not to mention the books (CDs, videos etc) themselves and the skill of the librarians that you mention... I get so angry when people say things like 'what possible difference could public libraries make to the yobs who go out rioting' ....

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