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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Is the final chapter of libraries being written?

I’VE not visited a library for two years and a straw poll among my friends reveals none have visited one in living memory (writes Alan Cleaver). When did you last visit a library? WHEN I read Alan’s review about The Library Book I was rather sad at the thought of anyone questioning the need for libraries (writes Julie Morgan).

But deep down I feel libraries should be part of our society so I was hoping The Library Book would help me understand why.

The Library Book includes contributions from Julian Barnes, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Lucy Mangan, Alan Bennett, Stephen Fry, Susan Hill and a host of other worthies who one would hope could help in this debate. Unfortunately, most of them have tackled the subject of libraries in the same way: a wander down Nostalgia Avenue wearing rose-tinted glasses and reminiscing about visits to a library when they were a child (none of them are brave enough to admit that they haven’t visited a library in months or years).

It makes for a nice read but it’s not very helpful.

There are some notable exceptions. Seth Godin, Karin Slaughter and Bella Bathurst start to ask pertinent questions about library usage and their value in the future. Seth Godin interestingly suggests that we may need librarians in the future but we may not need libraries. Tom Holland is the one essay I found particularly insightful. His discussion on the history of libraries and their role in society puts the current debate about them into perspective and starts to help you understand better whether libraries should be storing books, ebooks, DVDs or computer games (and which ones).

You’ll find something enjoyable to read in The Library Book (published by Profile Books) but what you won’t find in the pages is a reason why we need libraries in 2012. Can someone write such a book please.

I visit the library at least one a week, rarely leave without a bagful of books and would have a major panic attack if I couldn’t access free books.

As a voracious reader, I couldn’t afford my book habit (I’ll only download books on my Kindle which cost less than £3!) and neither do I have the space to keep the many books I plough through every month.

I adore reading, but I couldn’t care less about keeping books, which is why libraries are perfect for me.

It is a habit I formed in childhood where I, and probably many of my generation, sat for hours in libraries reading about the world. Before the internet, computer games and DVDs, reading was one of the only options to occupy us nerdy kids.

However, unlike the famous authors in Alan’s review (who probably have the cash and the space to build their own mini libraries) I still, as a 44-year-old, find wandering around a library, picking up books on random topics and grabbing the new releases, a pure, stress-relieving joy.

Surfing the internet may provide unlimited information, but not every home has online access and reading for pleasure has proved a more important determinant of children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.

The kids’ section of every local library is packed with humorous, beautifully-illustrated, eye-catching books to enthrall, excite, educate and entertain new generations. How could there not be a place in communities for these reading sanctuaries?

The Cumbria Libraries Interactive Catalogue (CLIC) also offers library-users the chance to request books online from across the county or newly-released titles: Like Amazon, but without the cost.

And if, like me, you find a book you fancy which isn’t on CLIC, a friendly librarian will look to see if she or he can order the book in for you specially (as long as it isn’t something really freaky or dates from 1948).

I’m therefore at a loss to understand why anyone who enjoys reading doesn’t take advantage of this fabulous service or who is indifferent to a place where anyone can walk in, regardless of their background, and pick up books on thousands of topics.

We all know what happens to societies when they start to limit people’s ability to access free information.

It is no exaggeration that I therefore view the potential loss of libraries as a step closer to Hell.

What do you think about libraries? Email your views to julie.morgan@ whitehaven-news.co.uk.

THE shortlist for the 2012 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards has been announced. They are:

GOLD Dagger Shortlist for Best Crime Novel: Bereft by Chris Womersley; The Rage by Gene Kerrigan; The Flight by MR Hall and Vengeance in Mind by NJ Cooper.

John Creasy (New Blood) Shortlist for Best New Author: Good People by Ewart Hutton; Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne; What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright and A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash.

Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Shortlist for Best Thriller: A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming; Dare Me by Megan Abbott; Reamde by Neal Stephenson and The Fear Index by Robert Harris.

Bestseller Dagger/Hall of Fame Shortlist: The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves; House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz; The Bat by Jo Nesbo; Flesh and Bones by Kathy Reichs and Birthdays for the Dead by Stuart MacBride.

The winners will be announced on October 18.

WHO is the greatest kids literary hero? Is it Harry Potter saving the world, Katniss Everdeen fighting for freedom in The Hunger Games? Horrid Henry or Tracey Beaker?

Local libraries are seeking children’s views on heroes and heroines during Children’s Book Week, October 1-7.

Look out for the Children’s Book Week display in your local library.

Also running at the start of October is Story Sack Week. Story sacks contain books, toys or games to stimulate a love of reading in primary school youngsters, while Tiny Totes offer pre-school children board books and soft toys to help them learn about colours or numbers.

Check out special story sack sessions running in Copeland libraries through October 1-7.

MACMILLIAN Coffee Mornings will be held in Seascale Library on Thursday, September 27 from 10am-noon; Millom Library on September 28 from 10am-noon; Gosforth Library on September 28 from 10am-noon; Frizington Library, October 5 from 10am-noon and Egremont Library on Friday, October 19 (all day).

SEAFARER David Allan has embarked on a new adventure – into the literary world, with his first book entitled The de Mille Inheritance.

A work of fiction, this intriguing 270-page maritime mystery starts at the end of World War II when a U-boat commander sinks a British merchant ship, triggering a series of events, writes Margaret Crosby.In a saga that covers a period of 25 years, and involves a French count and an illegitimate child, the story takes the reader across continents in a tale of intrigue and suspense. It follows the recovery of valuable family heirlooms, a set of Monet paintings.

If you enjoy a mystery adventure told well then David’s first foray into literature could be just the ticket. Published by Amazon as a Kindle e-book, it costs £3.96. Captain David Allan of Moresby Parks first went to sea as a cadet in the late 1950s and worked his way up to shipmaster, taking his first command in 1974 and ending a lengthy seafaring career in the mid 1990s.

He has put his extensive marine knowledge to good use in his first novel and though the characters are fictional, the places are real and the action takes place in locations David knows well. He retired from as Whitehaven harbourmaster, in December 2001.

The de Mille Inheritance is divided into three parts with the central male character a U-boat commander who, acting upon an intelligence report, attacks and sinks a British merchant ship. A retaliatory gesture results in tragedy wrongly blamed upon the U-boat action. Subsequently, during a period of refit at St Nazaire the U-boat commander, spends his leave in a French aristocrat’s Parisian home that has been commandeered by the occupying German forces. He strikes up a liaison with the Count’s daughter but is never made aware he has fathered a child. The Count enters into a pact with the U-boat commander to secrete a set of private Monet paintings on a mid Atlantic island. What follows is an account of the commander’s adventures, of the life of the child he has never known and how the two come together at last, in extraordinary circumstances.

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