Showing posts with label Carmondean Library. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carmondean Library. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 March 2019

An Amusing Anecdote About Libraries

When I was a young man I used to get so excited upon entering a library I'd immediately need to go to the toilet. But in those days some libraries didn't have toilets that the public were allowed to use. I can't remember if it was in St Andrews or when I was living in Edinburgh, but when I went to visit the local library what would invariably happen was that I'd immediately need a dump and have to leave again to find a public toilet. Without fail.

If I were to describe my thought process upon entering a library as stream of consciousness it would read something like this: "At last, I've arrived! Look at all these wonderful books! A universe, a veritable wealth of knowledge and adventure packed between the covers of every one. I can't wait to get started on some new journey of the imagination and intrigue ... I'll be right back."

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

The Deputation (1)

Below is more or less what I read out at a West Lothian Council Executive meeting (when a member of the public does it they need to request a 'deputation') at Livingston Civic Centre this morning about the transfer of Carmondean Library to the Ability Centre building across the road.

Carmondean Library, Livingston North
Good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to speak before the council this morning. Just to introduce myself, my name is Chris Young, I'm a member of West Lothian Writers and the Federation of Scottish Writers and I love libraries. 

I'm originally from East Kilbride but have lived in or near Livingston for the past 7 years. I've been writing since I was 17, and spent many happy hours in the E.K. Central Library lost in books or studying for my highers thanks to which I was able to go on to study at St Andrews and gain a degree. I firmly believe that having a study area away from home where I could concentrate and have every reference at my fingertips helped me pass my exams.

When I lived in Japan in a suburb of Tokyo called Machida, the library there had a great selection of English books, and it was these which helped me stay out there for so long. Not only reading Science Fiction by Philip K Dick, but also the English translations of Japanese classics like 'I am a Cat' by Natsumi Soseki.

While in Japan and researching the internet where to come back to with my family in 2012 I remember zooming in on Carmondean via Google maps and being very happy to find a location that had a supermarket, a train station, a kindergarten, a health centre, a library and a pub all in close proximity. Saturday was Dad day and I took my son to the library, where we enjoyed the books, and then the cafe, before going home. I knew immediately that Carmondean Library was a very valuable resource for children and adults. It seemed well stocked with thousands of books that would take several years to get through. It had plenty of space, study materials, computers and study rooms for when I tutored students. It even had computers for kids and a wooden train for them to climb on. The staff were helpful and friendly. And it was quiet.

These days we are suffering from a 'Screen Epidemic'. It's a major challenge for parents to get their children away from games, movies and social media. It has actually been shown in a study that too much screen time can have an adverse effects on children's exam results. Whereas other studies have shown that those who read fiction actually live longer than those who don't. Having Carmondean Library reduced and hidden away would be another blow for parents trying to fight screen addiction.

A good library, like Carmondean, is worth its weight in gold, because each book is like buried treasure waiting to be discovered. 

So libraries should be protected, like parks, museums, green belts and forests. A good library is a book sanctuary, a safe place for troubled minds to escape their daily stresses. The link between mental health and physical health has been well documented and good libraries provide for this. A walk there prevents a plethora of ills.

As an English language teacher I also have an interest in child literacy. In Japan I was teaching young people from the age of three upwards, and one of the challenges was familiarising them with these alien shapes that we like to call 'the alphabet' and how they relate to sounds. 

Libraries are educational through fun and creativity. When I returned to Scotland I often got requests from parents to help coach their children – usually people from overseas, but occasionally a Scottish family would find that their child was struggling with English and ask me to help. That's when I realised that some young people in Scotland have a problem with literacy. And the best answer I could give them is reading for enjoyment. 

Mark Twain dug libraries
And now to the subject of budget cuts. I know times are hard and ways have to be found to save money. Have the following measures been considered?

Putting in a lower ceiling to reduce heating bills.
Installing solar panels on the south facing roof to reduce bills
Charging more for late returns.
Renting out DVDs, Blu Rays, Cds, Games, Audio books
Advertising on billboards on the outer walls
Appealing to the public to raise funds to keep the library open
Donation Book clubs, Writing clubs

Lawrence Banks who I met through my Facebook page 'Save Carmondean Library,' had this to say: “This is a valuable local facility and is a central location. This library is essential and should be kept open as it allows locals to read good books and assists children when students are preparing for exams. Removing this facility would disenfranchise local students whose life chances would be lessened by renoving Carmondean Library. Keep Carmondean Library open.”

So to summarise then I just wanted to let you know that Lawrence and I at least feel that Carmondean Library ought to be preserved and I don't think we're the only ones. The local people have their lives enriched by its proximity, like a park or museum. If it's tucked away it'll be out of sight out of mind. If it's not as good as it was, fewer people will avail it of its services. Reading should be celebrated. Yes, hospitals, fire stations and police services are important, of course they are, but so are adventures of the human spirit. Affairs of the heart. Characters that teach us persistence over adversity. Real life inspiring autobiographies. If the library is reduced, diminished, so will the rainbow colours of Carmondean. So will the light of the smiles on adults and children's faces. If Carmondean Library is sold off to become a McDonalds or a Starbucks, the unique culture of the area will sadly suffer.

So I'd like to request more time to do a thorough public consultation with an online petition, large boards in the entranceway of Carmondean Library notifying the public of the situation with a comments box, flyering and street surveys, and to present the findings at the next meeting.

I'd like to finish with some quotes:

A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity.” 
― Germaine Greer

Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” 
― Walter Cronkite

I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” 
― Ray Bradbury

In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” 
― Mark Twain

Thank you.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Saving Carmondean Library

Had a nice meeting at BNI TGI in the Edinburgh Marriott after which rushed back to Dobbies, Livingston to begin some video editing, when at the back of nine I saw on the Save Our Ability Centre - West Lothian FB Page there was a meeting about the proposed squeezed relocation of Carmondean Library into the Ability Centre building, at 9:30am in Livi Civic Centre. 

Typical, I thought. Having the meeting just when I'm at BNI TGI and can't attend. Then I looked at my watch. It was 9:10am. Oh. I can attend.

Immediately discarded my half drunk pot of tea and jumped in the car, parked it up at Howden Park and legged it down the hill to the Civic Centre with loads of great arguments I intended to put forward for how important libraries are (student literacy levels, social interaction, promoting and using imagination and creativity) and why Carmondean Library is perfect where it is (nice and central, next to supermarket, health centre and park) and should be protected, invested in, expanded even (more books, audio books, DVDs, book clubs, writing classes) - not crammed into a building and shuffled off out of sight.

I jogged breathlessly into the Civic Centre only 10 minutes after the meeting started, signed in and crept into the public gallery unsure whether I could/should/wanted to say something, and/or whether I should blurt something out even if I wasn't allowed, while simultaneously shaking my fist or some such. 

After a nice chap confirmed to me the public weren't actually permitted to comment, I resigned myself to sitting in the public gallery between someone who bore all the resemblances to being a reporter from my days doing work experience at the EK News, and two other people sitting up the back. 

The Save Carmondean Library issue was the last on the agenda. It turned out the nice guy who who told me I couldn't comment was the Acting head of Housing, Customer and Building Services who seemed to be leading the charge to move Carmondean Library into the Ability Centre (push pull Jaws effect here) and 'decant' the staff and users of the Ability Centre into Deans Community High School for ten months while the renovations took place. 

According to he and the Acting Head of Social Policy the feedback that they had received about the proposal to cram Carmondean Library and Ability Centre into one building was nothing but positive. Everybody they had spoken to was over the moon about the move. People were tripping over themselves to spill adulations and praise upon them like pearls.

But who have they talked to? Well, not me. And they don't seem to have heard of Facebook in general or the 'Save The Ability Centre' page or 'Save Carmondean Library' pages in particular.

After cramming my fist in my mouth in an effort to not blurt out something untoward, the meeting drew to a close and I had a chat with the other two good people in the gallery, who it turns out were to be my allies in this fight, and I look forward to working with them in the hope that we can bring this to light, reach the public and find out whether it really is a necessary and popular move, and if not, what else can be done instead.

It's just a shame a public consultation (not to be confused with 'engagement') was carried out before all of these plans were put in motion rather than in the coming months just before they are finalised.

Then if/when we win all their work that we have paid for will not have been in vain.