This week, from 30th January until 6th February, is National Storytelling week. It was founded by the Society of Storytelling and has been running for the sixteen years now. Its aim is to promote the centuries old tradition of storytelling in communities across the UK.
Storytelling is an art that began before people could write. It's where myths and legends, folklore and fairy tales find their roots in every civilisation across the world. Then came the written word, books and translations of stories from other parts of the world, some of which became incorporated into the cultures and history of other lands and made their own.
As writers we make up stories. We think them up, write them, rewrite them, polish them, and then have them read, and eventually they may even get published. It's a long hard road. The oral storytelling tradition is very different. A story I make up on the spot to tell my child or nephews and nieces is spontaneous. Stories will inevitably adapt and change to fit the audience, and the ability of storytellers to do that with ease and assurance is an art.
Moving on from the spoken word to the written word and books, which I believe everyone should have access to, where best to have free and easy access to the written word but in your local library? Tomorrow, the 6th of February, is National Libraries Day. Like many writers have also said, I too would not be a writer if there had not been a local library in my town. The library offered books that I could borrow for free, there was advice and guidance on books from qualified librarians, there was somewhere to sit and do my homework, and it offered me a safe haven too.
Anne Cleeves, writer of TV series Vera and Shetland, has been named National Libraries Day ambassador. She says of libraries that, “They’re magic places. And we need them for democracy – there should be equal access to books, information and facts for everybody.”
Children’s authors have spoken up. Cathy Cassidy has said, "Without libraries, I would never have had access to books as a child, would never had stood a chance of following my dreams. Now our public libraries are being closed all around us; it’s a national scandal, and we must stand together against these closures, for the sake of our children and the future of our country."
Philip Ardagh has called on book lovers to, "speak up for libraries before there’s nothing left to shout about."
John Dougherty says, "If we want a society that is literate, cultured, educated and compassionate, then a well-funded, professionally-staffed public library service is not a luxury. It is a necessity. And the destruction of service that our government is allowing is quite simply immoral."
Almost four hundred and fifty libraries have closed since 2010. Lots more are facing closure. Under various new proposals, some libraries, the ones that have not already been shut down or are facing the axe, will only be able to offer very limited services, limited opening hours, and some 'will not allow any under 16 years old in unless they are accompanied by an adult'!
I know for a fact lots of libraries are full of kids after school, including my local library, Finchley Church End. Kids are doing their homework, studying, or reading books. Some of them come to my teen reading group on a Monday. The only parents that are accompanying children are the parents of young children, not teenagers. This is set to change in many libraries.
Follow this link to read about what Biblioteca, the company who have thought up 'Open+', a plan devised to apparently keep more libraries open. Libraries will much more high tech with gates and security cameras, entry by card and pin, no staff (or minimal staff and volunteers...) and teenagers will have no access to a library unless they are accompanied by an adult, and that is just SO WRONG! Did I shout that loud enough? Read more about the Open+ plan HERE.
There has to be a better way.
We all appreciate the value of libraries, how important they are, why they're important, and what they've meant to us. I've blogged about what they've meant to me many times, and I will continue to add my voice to those campaigning for libraries. So if you haven't already signed the petition, please sign it by following the link here -
There is a Speak up for Libraries lobby on Parliament on 9th February if you're in London. Follow this link for more details - http://speakupforlibraries.org/