Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thought for the Day

As delivered just now at BBC Radio Bristol:

It's St Jude's day today. Based on one of the final lines of his letter, 'Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire to save them...' he is called the patron saint of lost causes.

Are libraries becoming a lost cause? Not enough of us using them.

I recall the excitement I felt as a child when I discovered books. Matched by the wonder of being able to go and borrow three at a time from Selly Oak library, to read as quickly as I wanted. Jennings the schoolboy. The adventures of Biggles the aviator. Summer holidays' stories Swallows and Amazons or Coot Club.

In those days buying and owning books was not the family habit. The only books on our shelves at home were reference books.

I used to work as a writer. One day a week I would be at the library researching. Not yet was all information in the world available from my mobile phone - in those days the click of a mouse would have sounded like some weird magic spell.

E-readers, tablets and other devices have replaced books. I can't easily buy my wife a book for Christmas. She reads electronically so I don't keep up with what she has read.

Maybe book-libraries are disappearing, relics of a by-gone age along with old-fashioned pubs where you simply drink and the sort of churches that smell of Evensong and pigeon.

But the surviving pubs learned to do food and live sport. Growing churches are more guitar than organ. If libraries are information-exchange centres maybe it's not all about books. My local library is popular for internet access.

We don't quite need St Jude yet. But we have him on stand-by.

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