TALKING POINTS

Are local libraries still a valuable and viable resource?

Libraries have served a valuable contribution to society throughout history.  From some of the earliest known archives, etched on to clay tablets discovered in temple rooms in Sumer (now modern-day Syria) in 2600 BC; to the great Library of Alexandria, the most important library of the ancient world; right up to our contemporary libraries, like the British Library, with its roughly 8 million objects cataloguing the story of human history, art and culture.

Libraries remain important public institutions.  They enable even the poorest in society free access to public information and a quiet space to learn and reflect on our own and others’ culture.  Yet they now compete against the new technologies like Google and Wikipedia brought to us by the internet.  You can browse without leaving your chair.

So library usage has generally declined, and libraries must continue to adapt to the times.

Take Swanley Link in my constituency.  The same building includes a good lending and reference library, a children’s section, a Post Office, council tax and housing advice, free computer and internet access, a café and it’s where I hold my regular monthly Saturday morning advice surgeries.  These additional services draw people into the world of books and browsing

Kent like other county councils has to cope with spending pressures, especially on social care and education. Yet we have managed to retain the main libraries in Sevenoaks and Swanley and a network of smaller ones in between.  I want to see them survive. One hundred years on from the 1919 Public Libraries Act, which paved the way for libraries to become free for all, would be a good time to for all us to show how much we value them.

Sir Michael Fallon MP