Friday, 25 February 2011

Something children love and need

Today’s blog post is not by a writer. It is by someone much more important: a reader.
The reader is a lady named Shamila Akhtar, who has started a petition to keep her local library - Pleck Library in Walsall - open. I quote from the Pleck residents’ group website: ‘Pleck is recognised as the most deprived area in the borough of Walsall.’ Walsall itself is in the West Midlands, my home region and one of the areas hardest hit by spending cuts. If a library is needed anywhere, surely it is needed here.
I am proud to introduce Shamila as a guest blogger:
- Leila Rasheed

by Shamila Akhtar
Everyone's talking about why their library should stay open. It's such a turmoil of emotion, every single library is special to the people who use it. In Walsall, 6 of 16 libraries will close. It's awful - I feel like the small libraries are competing against each other to survive. Like we’re in a slaughter house and all jostling to stay at the back and not get picked. What a sad situation!! Every single library should be left alone.
What is it about that these buildings and the resources within that's turning people like me into campaigners? I'm a person who is not the politician, the local councillor or even the vicar who posed for our Press Event photo. I am a little shy, timid in approaching the writing elite to ask for their support. How will I come across? What will I say?
Perhaps I can share some of the magic moments the library creates, delivers, facilitates.
I have seen a father sitting there on a tiny chair reading to his boy, speaking not so well English but he was there and he was trying. His son gets his undivided attention, they get special time together.
I have turned the final page of a book we borrowed from there, to have a crocodile pop up. The boys want me to make him snap at their fingers, we protect the book so baby does not damage the pop up.
Summer holiday activities: the library is totally packed and the children's entertainer has brought a play parachute. The children are thrilled and their hair goes crazy with the static. The animal man places a cockroach on a little boy’s nose and the snake does the usual mishap. The Librarian brings out biscuits and juice. Now that is a magic moment for the kids.
It is the librarian’s birthday; my 3 year old makes her a card. As she turns the card over there is some of his dinner glued to it, and we all have a giggle. He tries to trick her, saying it's a glittery glue and she gives him some cake and a hug.
An elderly man walks into the library, he shakes hands with a friend, picks up a news paper and settles down on the next armchair to read. He could have read a paper at home but he came here, he and his friend read their own papers together. Will the council look close enough to see what I see?
In my childhood my father would often take me to this same library. Though he could not read well himself he knew this was a place from which his children could learn. We all have those things that throw us back to a moment in the past: a smell, a food. We all should have a book that does that too. For me that book is Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. The moment I see the cover I can feel exactly how I felt as a child, enchanted.
It will be criminal to end the opportunity for moments like this to take place.
It really is a wonderful place. This is one perspective, how many more are there? We want to save this library for our children, our elderly, the PC students, Chess Club, the Baby Group, the Homework Club and so many more users.
I am campaigning for my little boys and all the children; for all the times they sat in their carer’s lap, forall the times they felt close because a book needed them to be close, for all the times a book made them laugh, for all the times a reader could not wait to find out what happens next, for all the times a lonely person spoke their first words of the day to a librarian, for all the friends made there and for so much more - for the library and everything it gives.
By Shamila: A mum trying to save something her children love and NEED


Joan Lennon said...

This is a very moving and true post - thank you for writing it.

AwfullyBig Contributors said...

Shamila, thank you for a wonderful post. I really hope your campaign is successful.

Elen C said...

oops, sorry about the weird name in the comment above. I've been mucking about with my profile and forgot to change it back!

catdownunder said...

Shamila - yes, that is what libraries are about. Thankyou and I hope you succeed!

Gillian Philip said...

What a lovely post - says it all. I hope you win your fight.

frances thomas said...

What a moving and vibrant account! Hoping you win your campaign.

Leila said...

The data support Shamila's statement that children 'love and need' libraries. This media release from PLR (the body which administers authors' earnings - very small earnings, capped at £5000 p.a. and usually far lower than that - from library lending):

shows that UK children's authors top the 'most-borrowed' list. Julia Donaldson is quoted in the release as saying: "This just shows how much children need, and are entitled to, libraries and librarians. It's how they find out which books they like best and develop a love of reading."

Penny Dolan said...

Shamila's words say exactly what is that is so precious about the library service and why we don't want to lose it. Hope all our tweeters will re-tweet this link!

Leila, thank you & Shamila for bringing us this important guest post.

adele said...

Brilliant, Shamila!

June said...

Your observations from within your own local library are echoed throughout many libraries. Thank you for noticing the many small good things that do not get counted or recorded.
Too much is is measured by the number of people through the doors, or items issued.

Pippa said...

Shamila, you've expressed such important human qualities that a library ofers - SO important. I do hope your lovely library survives.

Dave Cousins said...

Great post Shamila, it baffles me how anybody can think closing libraries is a good idea. As Carl Sagan wrote, "the health of our civilization, ... and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support our libraries."
Good luck with the campaign (from a fellow Brummie!)

Rosalie Warren said...

Yes, a wonderful post. Fingers crossed for your campaign.

Katherine Langrish said...

Moving and marvellous post. Good luck with keeping your precious library open!

kerstin said...

Shamila has written a beautiful and heartfelt post. I was moved to tears. She is a star for standing up for all that is right and proper and important for our children and our community. I am proud beyond words that this quiet, shy, beautiful person is a friend of mine.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Thank you Shamila for saying it all. A great post.

Shamila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shamila said...

Many thanks to you all for your support. Shamila

Unknown said...

Thank you all for your support, the library is on the cuts radar again. Wish all the protesters luck on 9th Jan 2016 as they meet local MP Valerie Vaz outside our loved library, once more.