With the elected philistines (Labour and Conservative) planning to close down at least 10% of  libraries in Britain as part of spending cuts, the book/manifesto ‘Stop What You’re Doing And Read This’  published by Vintage Books can be regarded either as timely or too late.

It is not directly linked to the proposed closures but it is implicitly linked to the issue.

The book serves as an antidote to the general apathy towards books and reading as studies suggest the levels of literacy are falling at an alarming rate.

While I’m sure the texting skills of teenagers are far superior to mine, the ability to write coherent sentences in plain English is plunging.

Stop What You’re Doing….’  is a collection of  ten essays by British authors with the common goal of getting more people to appreciate the pleasures of reading books.  I haven’t yet got a copy  to say how well authors like Mark Haddon, Michael Rosen and Jeannette Winterson address the issues but the sneak preview I read from the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon.co.uk is highly promising.

This essay, called Library Life, is by Zadie Smith, and in it she describes how important her local library was in enabling her to discover a rich world beyond the confines of the London Borough of Brent. She doesn’t pretend that Willesden Green Library could ever compete with the British Library but it served a vital need for her and free resources like this are vital to the education needs of all generations. I particular like this part of her essay at the end of the preview:

“…..if you’ve benefited from the use of shared institutions, you know that to abandon them once they are no longer a personal necessity is like Wile E.Coyote laying down a rope bridge between two precipices, only to blow it up once he’s reached the other side – so that no one might follow him. Apart from anything else, you may not be as wily as you think you are. One day, you might find that back on the other side of that chasm is where you want to”.

Related links:
Preston Library Campaign website
‘Open letter’ to ‘culture’ minister Ed Valzey  (Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries)
Public Libraries News – updates on campaigns to save UK’s libraries
Stop What You’re Doing And Read This! (thereaderonline.co.uk)
Thinking about reading (roughtype.com)
Radio 4 Book of the Week: Stop What You’re Doing and Read This! (thereaderonline.co.uk)