One of the questions we are trying to ask at Dawn of the Unread is whether a library can become a focal part of the community again rather than just a warehouse for books. Digital technology offers immediate access to ideas, people and places, meaning the need to inhabit physical spaces appears to be diminishing. Why go to a library for a debate when you can watch something uploaded on Youtube? Why listen to an author read when everything you ever wanted to know can be found via a search box? The world is literally at our fingertips and Google is our God. But like all Gods, Google is never physically present and we are, after all, sentient beings. We crave physical contact with the world and each other. But do we still crave that contact in libraries?
Not in Worksop it would seem.
We had a library talk booked there last week with no less than three writers: Alison Moore, Nicola Monaghan and John ‘Brick’ Clark. Alison was shortlisted for the Booker, Nicola won a Betty Trask Award for her debut novel The Killing Jar – about life on a tough council estate, and Brick, in addition to being a political cartoonist, has recently co-edited a graphic novel anthology about WWI called To End All Wars. Paul Fillingham was also in attendance, an expert in digital cultural trails who has just created A History of Mining in Ten Objects. I thought this was an exciting and varied line-up. Obviously not.
And it makes me furious. Ahhhhh!
Not because it could be perceived as two fingers up at our project but because Worksop is exactly the kind of place I want our project to engage with. It’s one of those towns that have been left to rot and is in desperate need of investment. It’s also where Alan Sillitoe was sent as an evacuee during WWII. There’s literary history everywhere if you look hard enough. Library staff don’t have the training nor the time to market these events efficiently to the public so it is little wonder they are poorly attended. The cuts, combined with a general apathy towards libraries, make it almost impossible to entice people to such events.
This Saturday I’m off to Mansfield Library with our script editor Adrian Reynolds and Paul Fillingham to spread information about our graphic novel and explain how one user has the opportunity to appear as a character in the final chapter. We are happy to offer advice on how to write for graphic novels, how to gain funding and anything that may help a young aspiring teenager on a career path that avoids the army or poundstretcher. So if you know anyone who this might appeal to, please pass on the details. The working classes have been left to rot for too long and it’s important we help install some hope.
So this talk isn’t just about promoting what we’re doing. It’s hopefully about inspiring others to do similar. But it is also about whether libraries are the right forum to hold public debates and engage with the local community. And only one person can answer that question: You. At 2pm on Saturday 19 July at Mansfield Central Library.
Mansfield Library, Four Seasons Centre, West Gate, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, NG18 1NH
- Mansfield Learning Partnership (mansfieldlearningpartnership.co.uk)
- Junction Arts (junctionarts.org)
- Advocacy, Speaking Up for the profession and getting published (thatblackbook.wordpress.com)
- Presenting Opportunities at Libraries (thewikiman.org/blog)
- Old Books Were New Books Once (bhlibrary.wordpress.com)
- Against Digital Rights Management (librarianinblack.net)
Rant on Little Free Libraries (mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com)
- Books: What Readers Like (sfgirl-thealiennextdoor.blogspot.co.uk)