A library holds many worlds, both material and fantasy, within words. Bookshelves lined from end to end with any topic you can think of, encapsulating ranges of emotion and interest, no matter how niche or hidden. No matter how alone or lost you may feel, there's always a passage, or perhaps a single solitary sentence, that resonates and makes you feel understood.
The library is like a second home to many of us. They are community centres, hosting activities such as multi-sensory storytelling and arts and crafts; they contain archival materials to delve into and discover the stories of those who came before us, they teach, inspire and entertain. As people before me have noted, libraries are one of the few public spaces left where you can simply exist, without the expectation of spending money.
Perth and Kinross Council are currently in the midst of a public consultation into the direction libraries in Perth will take over the next five years. The public consultation is open from 15 October to 27 November 2018 and will ask residents, users and other interested parties their views on a range of proposals set out in the five year Library Strategy - and you can complete it online, or pick up a print copy at your local library branch.
In light of the consultation, we thought this would be a great opportunity to showcase the stories and personal experiences people in Perth had to tell us about what libraries mean to them. We took to A.K. Bell to hear what you had to say.
Elaine Wallace, Senior Officer at Perth City Libraries
"Public Libraries are the sign of a civilised society, an inclusive society, a democratic society and an open-minded society. Big statements to make but all are true.
The impact of reading for pleasure is immeasurable. I have had many opportunities to develop new skills, meet with many authors, work with great staff who are committed to helping their communities, help people get in touch with family on the other side of the world and my personal favourite is introducing children to the concept that reading is a pleasure.
The impact of reading for pleasure is immeasurable. If we take that away from adults and children we weaken our society and communities. Reading for pleasure develops your vocabulary, makes you more empathetic, broadens your knowledge, reduces your stress levels and improves your mental health.
As a nation, we have 3 institutions that we are justifiably proud of; the NHS, Education and the Public Library Service. The public library service belongs to the public in a way that no other institution does and I am a custodian.
Most things in life can be bought but the public library service will always be priceless.
Janey Lloyd, Small City Big Personality Families Contributor
Not only is the library an old workplace full of ex work colleagues that I am still extremely fond of, but at times - especially recently - it has been my secret getaway for peace and relaxation.
I have endless childhood memories of being sat in the children’s section, getting lost in the world of Goosebumps and Roald Dahl and ignoring my Mum’s calls that it’s time to leave. Now I am the Mum taking my child to the library, teaching him about the importance of this magical place where he can get lost in the same world his Mummy did all those years ago.
Les Sutherland, Digital Development Officer at Perth City Libraries
"My job involves interacting with staff and the public to solve problems: from connecting to the free Wi-Fi, helping someone print out a form, using a mobile phone or helping a small business to experience how technology can help them.
One of my great frustrations is how access to products and services are hidden, or appear out of reach to those who need it most. The library provides a hub of learning where people can access information and technology freely: it is so important that we help people to improve their lives, whether through reading or the use of technology. It is very satisfying to arm people with the tools and knowledge they need.
One of my best days was one of the easiest when setting up email for a member and feeling that they were very unsure and resistant about using email, until we got to a point in the discussion about, 'And how much does it cost to post these emails?'"
Steve Crawford, Schoolteacher
The library is a place where you can come and learn anything that you want, free, with no restrictions on what you do. The library is a place where you can come and learn anything that you want. I'm a school-teacher, and it's different in schools - we have to tell everyone what to learn. But as soon as school finishes, you can come here and learn what you want. I think the atmosphere in the library is great and it's a good place to be. Actually, today I was just passing by and thought, "I need somewhere to sit and play with my son. I always find libraries provide that space.
Stuart Cosgrove - Journalist, Broadcaster and Television Executive (excerpt taken from our recent interview with Stuart)
[Sandeman Library] was where I first fell in love with books, in the deep sense of understanding their value.
My mum worked in a kid’s clothes shop called 'Christeen Reids' in Methven Street - a block away from the old Sandeman. In Primary School I waited for her in the library until she finished work and we got the bus home from the Mill Street toilets bus stop.
I vividly remember borrowing a copy of John Lennon's satirical book 'In His Own Write', it was a cult book at the time and it fired my interest in his life. He appears briefly in Harlem 69 due to his close relationship with the saxophonist and bandleader King Curtis.'
Adele McMillan, Library patron
It's great to have the library to be able to access the internet if you don't have a connection at home. If your payments go and you run out of money, it's a good place to come. It's also very good for ancestry searches because even you're not a subscriber, you can get access here. That's what I come in for a lot - and to borrow the odd book!
For me, my local library provided a gateway to learning about archives and led to my work as a historian. Dr Nicola Small, Local History Officer at Culture Perth and Kinross
My local library, A.K. Bell, is also home to the city Archives. I volunteered there in 2008 when I thought I might train to be an archivist. I worked to help catalogue a small collection of letters dating from around 1700 and I had to read them all in order to describe them for anyone else to find on the archive catalogue.
I didn’t become an archivist but I did study more History. The Archives set me off on my own research into Scottish noblewomen.
I love old letters. So descriptive, so original and relevant even though they are hundreds of years old, nothing ever changes in the world. Noblewomen all worried or talked about the same things we do today. Gossip, news, family feuds, politics, love and intrigue- it’s all there!
The most amazing part for me in finding old documents, letters and journals in our Archives is that you get to see the original. It’s not a copy. You can read from the very letter, the actual page that was written on all those years ago. Postcards from the Great War, Jacobite letters full intrigue, private diaries and letters are all there waiting to be read again.
For me, my local library provided a gateway to learning about archives and led to my work as a historian.
Fenella Geddes (school student) and Mum, Susan
Fenella: You don't have to buy books, you can come here and borrow them for quite a while. If you buy the book you can buy it later.
Susan: We actually home educated our children - Fenella is the last out of five. The library has been a great help over the years to get information and resources on many different topics.
If you'd like to take part in the libraries consultation, which runs until the 27th of November, 2018, you can do so online, or pick up a paper copy to fill out at your local library branch.
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