“DEMOS carried out research over the summer of 2018 to assess the potential impact of reading on several great challenges of our time: loneliness, mental health problems, dementia and social (im)mobility… In a worst case scenario, the social, political and financial pressures of these challenges will pit the young against the old, the privileged against the disadvantaged and the healthy against the ill. This report shows that books can bring us back together in surprising ways. Of course, reading is no panacea. But upon review of the evidence, there is simply no excuse to not take reading seriously as part of the solution.”
“A Society of Readers” DEMOS 2018 Executive Summary
Those of us who have ever been involved with public libraries professionally know the above to be true and libraries offer so much more than books and reading: PC access, assistance with information literacy and online forms, a free and neutral civic space, homework and research help, rhyme time and reading for energetic or shy toddlers, someone to talk to whatever your age or needs. Sadly, the long-term good that public libraries do is having to be weighed by our local authorities against the short-term legal necessity of bringing in a balanced budget while managing the immediate acute social care and child protection needs of their population.
This petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/228742 calls on parliament to be honest about the strain they are putting on local authorities. It calls on the government to invest directly in our public libraries, with additional funding that is ring-fenced. I use the word ‘invest’ deliberately as that is what it is, an investment that in the longer term saves society money as well as improving the health and mental health, academic and employment prospects and pleasure in life of countless citizens.