At first, I didn’t think there was much point me trying to share a story because I have to confess to not using local libraries much in recent years. I was reminded that this story is so true of many people and why libraries are in such a vulnerable position. However, just because I tend to find the information I need by Googling it, doesn’t mean that I don’t value the libraries. I signed up our 2-year-old son to Boldmere Library when he was just one and we did borrow some books and read them. We know that there are lots of activities that take place at Boldmere Library for children in our area who are a bit older than Caleb, but also for toddlers too, although we lead such busy lifestyles that we haven’t actually taken advantage of these. At present, Caleb has so many books at home that he’s had given as gifts or acquired second hand that we don’t currently have a use for the library, but when he’s a little older we have every intention of taking him on a regular basis to choose different books to read and we can only hope the library will still be there. Caleb is privileged to have so many books, but so many people are not in a similar situation and the library can often be the only way that some children will encounter reading apart from at school. We read to Caleb every day because we’re aware of how important it is to his development. Every child should have this same opportunity.
I do recall many years ago, in the 1980s and 1990s before the age of the internet, how valuable I found libraries as a child. I was an avid reader and would borrow books regularly, usually from Wylde Green Library because that was next to my primary school, but when I went to secondary school, I regularly made use of Sutton Coldfield Library. I even recall some project work where I had to use the microfiche readers to look back through archives of newspapers. Not much later in life as a young teacher, the library was where I would source short plays that students could perform on stage and CDs of sound effects were very useful for this purpose too.
I love reading about and hearing about the history of our Royal Town and looking at old photographs on the walls of local pubs. I wish I had the time to do some more research and I hope that when I eventually retire there will still be a local history section that I can spend time finding out more about this history of Royal Sutton Coldfield.
Technology is continually evolving, and the role of libraries has been changing and will continue to change in the future. For some people they are the only source of internet access which most of us take for granted. We all recognise the need for libraries to move with the times and for restructuring, but such savage cuts in these times of austerity are damaging to the underprivileged in our society and could lead to the loss of our amazing local history section of the library. Looking forward, I hope to see a large community hub that includes a café, internet access, lending of books, reference materials, local history, maybe a small museum, maybe a tourist information office and maybe a place that other community organisations can call their home.
Cllr Paul Long, AKA Boldmere Paul