Children’s author backs bid to save public libraries

AH Proctor
Children’s author AH Proctor will visit 50 public libraries and donate hundreds of books during National Libraries Week

BBC Scotland is reporting that children’s author AH Proctor has said public libraries are vital for well-being as figures showed there had been 45 closed in two years.

The writer of the Thumble Tumble series was speaking ahead of National Libraries Week, starting on 8 October.

Ms Proctor’s books chart the adventures of a witch on the Isle of Arran.

According to figures from the Scottish Library and Information Council, 30 libraries closed in Scotland last year, up from 15 the year before.

Ms Proctor said: “Libraries are absolutely vital to the mental health and well-being of all communities around Scotland.

“There really is nowhere else like them offering the peace, tranquillity and the ability for absolutely everyone to be transported to magical worlds through the power of books.

“I’m heartbroken to hear of so many closures in recent years and want to do all within Thumble Tumble’s power to reverse this trend.”

The Democrat supports unreservedly the financing and development of Library Services in West Dunbartonshire.

Bill Heaney wrote: In West Dunbartonshire, where our library service was once much admired, and our education services were reckoned by many to be world class, it would appear we are going backwards.

Our libraries have just moved to new, reduced opening hours with branches closing at allegedly quiet times, including Saturday afternoons.

And the money saved by these austerity cuts in staff and services, a substantial £421,000, will go to furnishing buildings instead of furnishing minds.

Agnew DennisThe official announcement of the cutbacks here came from the enigmatic Bailie Denis Agnew, pictured, who has managed to conjure up at title for himself where none exists.

Plus a gold chain and nice little earner of £20,000 a year to go with it.  Unlike the library service and librarians – some of whom face redundancy – his remuneration has received an austerity by-pass.

He is on the pig’s back – despite his (broken) promise to the electorate that he would be Independent when he is SNP in all but name.

West Dunbartonshire is to spend its library money on a range of areas including renovating children’s areas, improving book display areas, and creating more welcoming help desks and improved signage.

The cash for that should, in my view, be coming from the building maintenance and improvements budget.

And taking the mobile library service into areas of deprivation where it has never been before.

This is all very well, but what about books? There is no mention of expenditure on new books in the official statement about this matter.

Books after all are what libraries are supposed to be all about.

Andrew Carnegie, the great philanthropist recognised this, when he donated fortunes to set up libraries such as the one in Strathleven Place, Dumbarton.

There’s certainly no mention of encouraging young and old in the community to emulate the likes of AJ Cronin and buy in books by local authors.

The bombastic bailie, who was once a Labour councillor, appears to have become a pawn in the tawdry political game which has put the SNP into power here.

He would seem to have traded the Independent ticket he stood on for election for a title and a chain of office.

Bailie Agnew left little doubt about that when he seconded the now infamous anti trade union measures in this year’s council budget.

This led to council leader, Jonathan McColl, performing an embarrassing and ignominious U-turn.

Possibly Bailie Agnew is trying to take a leaf out of the book of the SNP hero Hugh MacDiarmid who wrote the epic poem of 1926, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle? 

MacDiarmid’s character in this poem, an extremist and an elitist, is unconcerned with the couthy opinions of the majority of folk.

He cultivates an image for himself similar to that of the iconoclastic MacDiarmid in real life –  as spiky as any thistle.

MacDiarmid himself despised local authors, whom he called kailyard (literally cabbage patch) writers, most notably the novelist and playwright JM Barrie.

Barrie’s sentimental depictions of small-town life, the poet opined, had little connection with the realities of modern Scotland and present-day experience.

The poet sought to establish a new cultural reality in Scotland, one that replaced what he regarded as outmoded figures such as Barrie, who wrote the massively popular Peter Pan, with writers whom he promoted as part of the Scottish renaissance.

MacDiarmid envisaged cultural life in Scotland being established once more on a specifically Scottish footing – what he called “the axis of our own mentality” – yet firmly in the vanguard of international developments.

To achieve that in West Dunbartonshire today, Bailie Agnew and his SNP partners will need to take a more radical, quite different approach to our council services in general and our libraries in particular.

In order to move forward in this life, it is more than helpful to know where you have been and to inform yourself of that you have to read BOOKS.

Not waste taxpayers’ money waving off a carry rally from an area of deprivation such as Clydebank to a rich person’s tax haven in the South of France.


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