Save our Libraries: Time travel with a library card - Liam Rudden

There's a cartoon currently doing the rounds on social media. It's not new, in fact, it's been a decade since it was first published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 4:45 pm
Libraries are a gateway to adventure

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In it, cartoonist Rogers has drawn a wee lad sitting on Santa's knee. Talking to Father Christmas, the kid lists, 'I want books, computers... and the ability to travel through time and space!'

Santa replies, 'Okay, here's a library card,' much to the delight of a bespectacled elf wearing a jumper emblazoned with the words, 'Save our Library'.

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It's been popping up in my various timelines over the last week, just as I was finishing the latest Con Fairchild novel, Nowhere To Run, by James Oswald - one of three books I was reading at the time.

It caused me to reflect on the origins of my own love of reading, encouraged from before I can remember by my parents who had taught me to read before I ever stepped into primary school at the age of four.

Back then, getting your first library card was as much a right of passage as your first school uniform, books were expensive luxuries so Ferry Road Library became my gateway to other worlds and cultures until I was old enough to buy my very first paperback, The Auton Invasion, by Terrance Dicks, when I was 10 years old. I can still recall the excitement when I first spotted copies on the shelves of Woolies at the Foot of Leith Walk.

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Books quickly became my birthday and Christmas present of choice - an edition of Raffles, by EW Hornung, being the first hard-back I ever called my own. I still have it.

To this day, I take great delight trying to match family and friends to books they might enjoy.

So I worry when I read about lending libraries disappearing because of funding cuts, the convenience of digital media and e-books, many of which can be downloaded for pennies or, in some cases, free of charge.

Of course, the world is changing and there's no going back. Lending libraries may have been evolving, extending their services into different areas and changing their hours of operation to survive, but is the writing already on the wall?

What will happen to all those kids who, like me all those years ago, rely on them to fire their imagination and take them on adventures.

Edinburgh still has 28 libraries according to the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), 21 of which the City of Edinburgh Council website reveals have now re-opened after lock down.

It's encouraging that the SLIC, in its four-year strategy for Scotland’s libraries, has called for them to be 'put at the heart of the Covid recovery', I'm sure books have helped many through the pandemic.

In the meantime, I look forward to seeing what titles are waiting to be unwrapped on December 25 - it's a great way for gauging how well people know you - and if you're looking for suggestions for the bookworm in your life, let me recommend James Oswald's Con Fairchild series, I'm about to re-read the first two, No Time To Cry and Nothing to Hide. A rip-roaring blend of crime with a just hint of the supernatural, they're cracking page-turners.

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