Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a… library?

Oh heck! And here was me thinking I’d start 2015 off quietly. On January 1st, while nibbling away at a chocolate Santa, I idly responded to this tweet from Essex Schools Library Services on ‘Essex’s smallest library in Arkesden?’: t box I replied that the telephone box was a quirky use of space but that it wasn’t, in my opinion, a library. Back came the reply: ‘It’s somewhere you can borrow books from. Surely that’s a library?’ To which I tweeted: ‘Not really. genuine leather iphone 7 plus case I prefer mine to contain librarians for advice and space to browse, research and discover.’     At this point, others joined in the conversation and an argument broke out about what is and isn’t a library. There were strident views between those who felt anything that gets kids reading is a good idea so what’s the problem and those who felt public library services were being lost fast enough without those-who-should-know-better encouraging people to think a telephone box was an acceptable substitute for a library. West Croydon Voice, for example, tweeted that ‘arguing a library in a phone box isn’t a library is like saying an e-book isn’t a book.’ This was countered by another tweeter saying: ‘…a phone box is no more a library than a vending machine is a restaurant.’ IMG_2298                 By this stage, Essex Schools Library Services had stopped communicating. I felt bad. I had upset a Schools Library Service! Me! A children’s writer who counts many SLS employees as friends. Me, who relies on SLS branches up and down the country to promote my books and invite me to festivals and schools. Me, who has lost count of the number of papers and articles I’ve written in support of the service over the years. I saw my reputation going down the pan before my eyes. I tweeted an apology for coming across as ‘patronising’, suggesting we should agree to disagree. iphone 6 plus case aluminium My apology was accepted. It all ended amicably. Phew! Except that I was now left feeling uneasy. The exchange of tweets revealed a schism in the public libraries sector. There appear to be two camps – those campaigning vociferously against the erosion of services and those who think the cuts are inevitable so let’s accept it and make the best of it. iphone shockproof case 8 I can see both points of view but I felt I had let down the campaigners a little. I know I’m a wimp, unlike some children’s writers out there, like Robert Muchamore, who seems unafraid to voice his opinion, no matter how contentious (his last tweet was about Mark Kermode, the film critic, needing ‘a good kicking’). After all, writers are meant to be ballsy, right? Not me, matey. torro case iphone 6 Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m genuinely sorry if I upset Essex Schools’ Library Service as that was certainly not my intention but I still maintain a phone box is not the same as a library. I am all for novel ways of getting kids to read; I’ve seen book areas with a Tardis in a corner and love the idea of children walking through Narnian-type fur coats to a room full of books like in the Story Museum – these are great ways to hook kids in, but the next bit – the big bit – the important bit – is getting them to read and enjoy the books. The books in the phone boxes appear to be mostly donated by people living in the village (phone box libraries all seem to be in villages). These books are not going to offer the same variety and quality as those in a regular library chosen by professional staff. They’ll be like those left in hotels and on hospital trolleys – 10 dog-eared Dan Browns and a few tatty Wimpy Kids. This blog on Phone Box Libraries in the UK does nothing to change that impression. However, I’m happy to be proved wrong and I’d love to hear from any children who use a phone box library. So there you go. I’m as surprised as you are that my first blog of 2015 is on this topic. I’d planned to tell you what I read over Christmas.


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