Monday musings on Australian literature: National Libraries Day (UK)
Caroline of Book Word blog has written a wonderful post about National Libraries Day in the UK, which took place just this last weekend, on Saturday, 6th February. Caroline provides three witnesses to argue for the value of libraries:
- Peter Balaba, Head Librarian, Nakaseke Community Library, Uganda, who talks about the outreach programs they provide in a book-poor region.
- novelist Zadie Smith who tried, but failed, to save Kensal Rise Library in London and who notes the government’s shameful behaviour, saying that “it’s always difficult to explain to people with money what it’s like to have very little”.
- novelist Ali Smith who last year published Public library and other stories, which is so titled not because there’s a story titled “Public library” (there isn’t) but because interspersed through it are “comments from other bookish people about the importance of libraries”. Love this.
You’re probably wondering why I’m telling this story in my Monday musings on Australian literature post series. Well, firstly it’s because I thought it was a great initiative and wondered whether we have anything like this here in Australia. I found that we do have something similar: ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association)’s nomination of Valentine’s Day as ALIA Library Lovers Day. They suggest a bunch of activities that libraries can use to promote library love (including using the social media hashtag #librarylove) and they have merchandise for sale. There’s a 2015 wrap up page which suggests that only a few assorted libraries around Australia took up the idea but those which did seemed to have got into the swing of it. What I didn’t find on their site is any sort of overall statement about the day – its genesis and history, its goals, its long term plans. Clearly it is about encouraging people to use their libraries, but is there a stronger, more coordinated political agenda?
I searched a little more and found an online article on a site called Infotoday. The article, written in 2011 it seems, says this:
As with many great ideas, the genesis of LLD is lost in time, but here in NSW we launched our first LLD in 2006, claiming Feb. 14 for library lovers and renaming it in honor of their passion. To celebrate, public libraries across NSW gave away more than 50,000 “love libraries” wristbands in green, blue, and orange and invited their clients to wear their hearts on their wrists. In 2007, the campaign went national under the auspices of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Public Libraries Australia (PLA) as their first combined advocacy event. (Today Australia, tomorrow the world!)
So it sounds like it’s been going for around 10 years now. The article describes some of the activities that have happened over the years, and concludes that LLD has been
an enduring and unqualified success story for NSW public libraries. Staff members love to get involved by dressing in red and pink, decorating their libraries, baking, and choosing and reviewing books. And the community members welcome the opportunity to thank library staff, enjoy a chocolate or two, and share their love of books and reading.
Again, it doesn’t say how they define or measure success of the program, but it sounds pretty localised and low key (not to mention rather female oriented. Aren’t there any male librarians? Not that men can’t enjoy baking or dressing in red and pink, but …!) Still, I’m glad there’s something promotional happening.
My other reason for writing this post is that it gives me an opportunity to share a couple of quotes from Steve Toltz’s Quicksand, which I reviewed last week. Here’s our anti-hero looking for a book:
The salesgirl at the third bookstore I tried suggested the local branch of the public library. I know what you’re thinking bailiffs: What is this, 1996? I raced through the streets as if through a time tunnel, to the bland underwhelming brick building behind the train station. My heart sank when I came across an island desk with twenty computer terminals, leather couches and espresso machines, but upon asking the librarian directed me to the appropriate shelf. It was there …
Not very positive really, but the second reference is worse:
After half an hour drive, the van halted and the door opened onto an abandoned-looking prison courtyard reminiscent of a library on Sunday.
Hmm … I guess it’s a good thing that Toltz notices libraries enough to satirise them, but if his is a common attitude it’s a worry.
Are you aware of a library promotion “day” in your neck of the woods? And, if so, do you take part?