A Library is not just for Christmas

Reposted with kind permission from the Library Campaign, December 2017.

(By Anonymous)

 

He leaned over the library counter and said “If they close this library I will do myself in”. The old man was not someone I recognised, meaning he was one of the many quiet ones that came in and, a few hours later, went out again. On the outside, he looked perfectly normal and nothing about him showed desperation. You would never have known that he was on the edge.

“The public library provides a haven for so many people, asking no questions and demanding no money. “

christmas libraryBut there are many people who use libraries who are like that. Indeed, perhaps it is precisely that fact that they use libraries that it is not obvious that they’re on the edge. The public library provides a haven for so many people, asking no questions and demanding no money. Anyone can come in out of the cold, and the dark, and sit down, read a book, a newspaper, use the internet or grab a few prized words with a fellow human being. That link with civilization, and with community, is something that can be taken for granted in those not on the edge. But it is something treasured by those less fortunate.

Now let’s go to the other end of the age spectrum. A child, wide-eyed, is being read a Christmas story. It’s one of the special evening story times that are done this time of year. I tell you,  some of these are downright magical. We turn the lights down, the Christmas tree lights shine in the corner and the little ones get a Santa story read to them. As they come in, a community choir (we’re all about community) is singing carols and at the end, Santa (a volunteer, again from neighbourhood) makes a “surprise” appearance. He was jangling cow-bells a few seconds before behind the scenes so the kids could hear the reindeer arriving. This could be the only time these kids see a Santa over the holidays, as we don’t charge and money can be important, especially this time of year. It will certainly be the only time that some will be in the same room as other kids and their parents, all engaged in the same thing. We’re teaching them how to behave and interact at this most wonderful time of the year.

“A child, wide-eyed, is being read a Christmas story. It’s one of the special evening story times that are done this time of year. I tell you,  some of these are downright magical. “

snowThen we have those who have nowhere else to go because the council offices are closed on Christmas week. One chap has just made homeless and has nowhere else to go. He needs an emergency payment for food and a room so he’s not outside walking past the Christmas decorations in warm people’s homes. Another is doing a job application because he’s just been made redundant. Who sacks people in December? Well, it turns out, quite a few people. He has a mobile phone but no internet at home so he needs the library to do a CV. I lean over and correct some spellings, showing him how to attach the email. He breathes out as he pressed “send”, a weight lifted off his shoulders as a job which should never have to be done this time of year gets done.

The thing is, public libraries are quiet over Christmas. It’s not our busiest time of year. That’s the Summer when hordes of kids come in with their parents and keep their reading levels up over the holidays, rewarded by stickers and medals. But it’s the season where the people using us most need us. They’ll do it quietly, walk in and do the stuff, whatever it is, be it browsing the books and taking out ten romances to keep them going over the few days we’re shut, or smiling gratefully at a simple task done for them or nodding to a familiar face. But it’s the time of year when they these people don’t have anywhere else to go. And we’re there for them, which makes me so proud, especially when I go home to my family, knowing that I’ve been part of a Christmas story for these people the quiet equal of any saccharine seasonal film my kids may watch on TV.

“it’s the season where the people using us most need us. They’ll do it quietly, walk in and do the stuff, whatever it is, be it browsing the books and taking out ten romances to keep them going over the few days we’re shut, or smiling gratefully at a simple task done for them or nodding to a familiar face.”

  • #1 written by Sue Taylor
    about 1 month ago

    Really bothers me that my authority closes all its libraries between Christmas and New Year. Worry about those people who come in every day. Where will they go?

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