When Dawn of the Unread was created nearly a decade ago, one of our main questions was whether libraries could become a focal point of communities again. Rather than being just book storage facilities, we argued libraries had the potential to bring people together, to act as a hub for knowledge exchange, and to help generate the kinds of conversations that would equip citizens with confidence and access to communities.
I was originally sceptical of libraries as one stop centres, particularly as somewhere to pay your council tax, as this trivialised their purpose and brought negative associations. However, I changed my view when I saw people queuing up to use computers at City Library and listening into storytelling sessions. By having multiple purposes, libraries are able to connect with communities that may otherwise not come into contact with books.
One thing I mocked in the opening issue of Dawn of the Unread was the perception of libraries as inhabited by ‘oldies’ and serving no other function than to keep them warm. Who would have thought that a decade on, a reason for keeping libraries open would be exactly this – as warm banks.
As the cost of living crisis intensifies, families are forced to make impossible decisions between whether to eat or put on the heating. The fact that libraries can now help with one of these issues may be one of the reasons that kept Basford Library, the Radford Lenton Library and Aspley Library open after the council planned to close them to save £233,000.
The Broadmarsh Centre has finally been flattened yet Central Library, the fulcrum of this recently renovated area, has sat stagnant for too long. One thing holding this up, according to the Nottingham Post, is the £10m required to fit-it out. However, I wonder if this delay is also down to how much it will cost to heat and light such a large building. All of which makes it more important than ever to keep the other libraries open – for now.
Unfortunately, the question of whether a library can be a focal point of the community seems to be the least important function at present. The current economic climate means the ambitions, at least in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are purely physiological, to provide shelter and warmth.
- How to find your nearest ‘warm room’, as community spaces pop up across the country countryliving.com
- Martin Lewis backs guide for libraries wanting to become winter ‘warm banks’ guardian.co.uk
- Art galleries and libraries to become ‘warm banks’ as energy bills hit £3,500 independent.co.uk
- 3 libraries proposed to close as wait continues for central library to open in Nottingham nottinghampost.com
- Prevent the closure of the libraries in Aspley, Basford, and Radford change.org
- Save Nottingham Libraries facebook.com