I don’t suppose I’m different from anyone else, but I love my hometown, Hay-on-Wye. It’s referred to as the Book Town because we have so many bookshops. They are all second-hand bookshops, but they are great. You’d be hard pressed not to find a book on your chosen subject.
We also have a ruined castle dating back to the 13th century, a clock tower that tolls the time quarter-hourly, art and craft galleries, stylish clothes shops, butter and cheese markets, antiques and a world-renowned literary festival.
If you’ve ever been to Hay Festival you’ll know how fantastic it is. For ten days each year our population is multiplied fifty times over and we rub shoulders with book-lovers and authors alike. The festival has its own bookshop stacked with brand new books and people sit all over the site reading. I love the smell of a new book and the crack of the spine when I open it for the first time.
You would expect a book town with so many bookshops and a literary festival to have a library, and we do. It is run by the noisiest librarian in the west! Jayne is amazing. She finds books for us, reads to our children and helps with any query, book-related or not. She has computer classes at the library, a ton of information about the town and meet-the-author events. She knows about books, old and new, and generally brightens the day of anyone who meets her. We borrow books, pretty much as many as we want and, for three weeks at a time, they are ours to hold and to value and, above all, to read.
Sadly, the Book Town’s library, like so many others, is under threat. Powys County Council is seeking to reduce the library’s costs by half, I am not sure if that is before or after the Festival’s yearly contribution of £11,000. Now, you might say we have to accept cuts and I agree, but not to a library that is only open sixteen hours a week.
We will learn our fate tomorrow, but with a budget of £163m and a reputation for being inefficient, I would have thought there might be many other ways to save £18,000 a year rather than knocking the heart out of the Book Town.