Friday, 7 February 2014

Libraries must never die

I love books.  I can see the benefit of Kindles but I will never, ever own one. I love the tangible thing about books. I love turning pages. I love smelling them. I love to imagine where they have been and whose lives they have touched.

And of course, I love libraries. I have so many fond memories of them. And so have my children. How else can you find all those great books that you’ve never heard about? Perhaps because they are older or maybe never even written about, such as Quacky Quack-Quack, Princess Smartypants, The Giant Jam Sandwich, or The Rascally cake, to name just a few of our favourites. All ‘classics’ that I have just happened to come across at the library (and we now own our own copies)

And now living in a new country, trying to get to grips with a new language, our village library has become a lifeline for us. My middle daughter (aged 6) is enjoying the comics (of which of course she can follow the pictures easily) I am learning Sweiss-Deutsch from Barbapappa (!) my eldest son (15) is hiring out the action movies and my 4-year-old daughter is enjoying the games.

Because libraries here are a few steps infront of many British libraries which are struggling to compete with the modern era (200 libraries closed in 2012 and campaigners predict 1000 will have gone by 2016) which is why the UK is forced to run an annual campaign which this year takes place tomorrow.

There are village libraries which hire out a huge variety of games and provide a huge service to the local schools and the city libraries can have four floors or more, crammed with books, music, films, computer games, etc, etc. There are rooms just for teens, rooms to listen to music, watch films, imaginative areas for the children to read. You pay a yearly membership (around 50CHF) but everything else (apart from current films) is free. This I think works much better than UK libraries where membership is free but you have to pay £2 for each film, CD, etc, which probably adds up to far more over the year. And of course generates much more of a guaranteed income for libraries.

In addition, there are the fantastic campaigns such as Winterthur’s latest in the run up to Valentine’s Day – ‘Where was your first kiss in Winterthur?’ providing a map for you to mark it on and postcards to write about it. I love libraries. And I especially love Swiss libraries. UK take note before it’s too late.

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