The following is in response to an article by Tim Coates which asks what reason libraries have for existing.

“Hi Tim. It’s true that one cannot go along doing something simply because it has gone on before. My reasons for a public library service will be different to everyone else but I offer them up here for criticism:

1) Libraries provide an essential service for those marginalised by society. I include in this the lonely, the unemployed, those with mobility issues, even those with IT access issues. In addition, we are the place where people go when they have no place. A civilized society cares for all its citizens. Libraries are a vital part in this. Summary: Social Welfare.

2) Libraries provide a vital place for children to learn books are for fun, not just for education. We provide the space to lie down with a teen book. We provide the lively storytime with a drum to bang and a rhyme to learn. We provide the helpful voice suggesting the next thing to read. We are ambassadors for fun reading into schools, for parents, for the street child who comes into the library in search of warmth. Summary: Literacy.

3) We provide free provision of that computer vital to apply for the available-only-on-the-internet job. We provide the printer to print the CV. We provide the newspaper that has the vacancy. We provide the assistance for those who cannot spell and who have lost the confidence to apply one more time. Summary: Employment.

4) We provide the space for dance, for artwork, for the author to visit and the local society to advertise. We provide crayons and paper. We provide the book on the Artist and the colour printer for the poster. We provide the space for the homeless author to write. Summary: Culture.

5) We provide the book on the illness. The internet article on the mysterious bump. The helpdesk from the local NHS Trust and the mental health group that by reading aloud to eachother learn that they are still part of the human race. We provide the book on coping with stopping smoking. Summary: Health.

6) We provide unbiased and neutral spaces, newspapers of all political views. A shop that is not a shop where people can sit and do what they want with no-one demanding they buy anything. A place to research and, yes, a place to rant. Summary: Democracy.

7) We provide the computer and the printer and the fax and the workspace and the wifi. We provide the skilled assistance and the heating and the space. Summary: Digital inclusion, Business Development.

You will laugh and say that I overstate the case. That this is an ideal world and not reality. That we lost the way some time ago. That I kid myself. I would say that you asked for reasons for what we should be and not a description of what are. I will say that I limited myself to just seven reasons because I wanted to keep ten in reserve.

You will say that we are jack of all trades and we need to concentrate on the one resource we were indubitably set up to provide. I will shout from the rooftops that we provide what we need to provide because we serve the community and society without price tag. We are the service without portfolio. We are the third space.

You will say the evil lazy librarians have lost their way. I will say that most haven’t. I will say that the vision is that we provide skilled services and have the training and manpower to do it.

It’s the reality that needs to change, not the vision. The more people with the vision, the more the decision makers will listen.”