By Adam Larkin
Joanne Fryer warmed up the crowd with a quick literary quiz with chocolates liberally thrown into the crowds. Katie Sallinger opened the proceedings and kindly read out an unexpected letter of support about our library from acclaimed children’s writer Jacqueline Wilson. She then handed over the introductions to Fiona Cochrane who eloquently introduced the guest speakers.
The party started with general socialising amongst ourselves for the first half-hour or so, before gathering to listen to our speakers.
Alan Gibbons is an award-winning author who organised the Campaign for the Book and National Libraries Day. He spoke of the importance of libraries in local communities and the lack of statutory requirement for having libraries. He stated that there is no statutory requirement to have a Library in a local community and said that there is only one type of building in the UK required to have a Library.
I will pose you a question, what type of building is it? School environments maybe - give your child the perfect start in life. No, it is not schools! What about universities, to help prospective graduates develop their skills from leading names within the areas they are studying? No, it is not universities, either! Have you worked out the answer yet? The answer is prison services.
While I understand that there is a degree of access to libraries within schools and universities, I find myself asking about the next generation and their access to great stories, to top-quality reference books and to fantastic literature.
We also heard from Boyd Tonkin, Senior Writer at The Independent. He spoke of his experiences growing-up in the area, being a regular childhood user of the Library and the knowledge he gained from his visits to the Library. He gave an example of a cricket book that he found in the Library, in which the author referred to someone they knew playing an 'invaluable' part in the life of the author. He said that he had previously understood 'invaluable' to mean "of no value" whereas the cricket book had helped him understand that 'invaluable' actually means "of great value".
Laura Swaffield, Chair of The Library Campaign (a national Library charity), spoke with greater brevity. She concurred with previously aired sentiments about how libraries and ourselves as a group of volunteers in a community-run Library should not be in this situation but stated it is commendable that people feel strongly enough to keep libraries running.
After thirty to forty minutes of listening intently to our speakers, our attention turned to the cake, with a somewhat apt picture of the Library on-top. The cake was accompanied by other light-food and soft-drinks. All of the food was made by our Volunteers and Trustees, many thanks for doing so!
The general social-air returned with people taking the opportunities to speak with other friends and family and to speak with key Library figures.
Mr Gibbons, who has a new book coming out, returns to the Library on 11 April alongside activist and prolific local blogger Theresa Musgrove, Library figure Reema Patel and fellow author Aubrey Rose for our Any Questions panel debate. This is a £5 ticketed event.
Photographs by Hugh Weldon