UPDATE: The media focus created by the protest referred to below resulted in a ‘stay of execution for Cardiff Libraries. But we must be wary that this is not just a tactic to keep the issue off the agenda in the run up to elections, before resuming the policy of seeking to close libraries when the council thinks the fuss has died down.

Well, they really did for me as a kid many moons ago. Long walks from the Nantyglo Estate in Gwent to Blaina Library opened up a new world between the covers of every single book. With nothing to do and little to hope for, only imagination may have saved my individuality from being crushed under the weight of commonly shared despair. The ability to think beyond myself, beyond my surroundings, beyond my experience came from books and for families with no other option, books came from libraries.

Today, hundreds of very different individuals with one intent took part in a protest outside Cardiff Central Library to show the local decision makers that people do care if the library services are cut. Not everyone can get to the bigger library so more local ones have always been and should always be a link to a world beyond that which we can see with our eyes.

Threats of library closures are a threat to the personal and social development of many who don’t have the facilities to access the high speed modern world we keep hearing about. Libraries are there to ensure that those least able to keep pace with the speed of modernity have a chance to be a part of a world increasingly dependent on high speed communication and social networking.

Despite the comments of ignorant and out of touch politicians, Libraries are not just a middle class issue. Readers who lack resources need them. Writers who fill the shelves with their work value the chance for their work to be accessed by readers who may never otherwise try out their stories and poems, etc, because money for things like books is not a luxury everyone can afford, which is a truth those who only see the world in terms of cost analysis simply don’t seem to understand.

Losing libraries also means losing the expertise of librarians dedicated to guiding people to the materials they need to find. This crucial aspect of the reason libraries help so many people is gone forever when a library disappears. And the lack of a library to go to is a lost avenue for everyone.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Cardiff Central Library, some travelling to the city specifically to add the presence and voices gathered to demonstrate that LIBRARIES DO MATTER

The view from inside Cardiff Central Library

While the Central Library itself is not in danger of closure, and it remains a welcoming place to all who wish to use it, it is the very local accessibility of library services that make them a part of peoples lives.  Reducing the number of libraries distances people from crucial facilities and distances people from their own community and the rest of the world. Those who decide where the axe will fall in tough economic times never seem to understand that their actions affect people. And if they do have the intellect to understand this (presumably because libraries gave them the power), then it is easy to assume that they simply do not care.

Show your local library that you care that it exists. Even if you don’t personally use the facilities because you have other options for accessing what you could otherwise get from a library remember that libraries are there for those who don’t have the choices you do. They are not a luxury, they are a necessity for more people than you could ever know.

Libraries gave me larger horizons than my life would ever have. Libraries gave me the means to express myself and to write and perform. Words on pages lead to dreams, and dreams lead to better lives.