I don’t think anyone cares about what we’ve lost

I don’t think anyone cares about what we’ve lost

You talked about libraries in a previous edition. The following is how I feel about mine (and we are told there will be more cuts).

My feeling is that no one in local government actually cares about libraries or thinks them important.

Harrogate used to have excellent central library, a comprehensive reference library, helpful and knowledgeable staff, lots of books – the biography section being particularly well provisioned.

The chief librarian was outstanding, so much so that I thanked him for all his help in the acknowledgements of my one of my books.

Then the library was refurbished, at a cost of over £3million thanks to a lottery grant. When it reopened the reference library had gone. No mention of its possible disappearance had been made in the publicity about refurbishment.

When I complained I was told that no one needs a reference library these days: there’s always the internet. Yet when I asked for a book recently published on country houses built on the profits of the slave trade (we have one such country house down the road) I was told that it would only be of interest to a researcher so the library service wasn’t prepared to buy it.

The biography section has been reduced to 3 stands and mostly stocks celebrity and misery memoirs. John Sugden’s masterly biography of Nelson was bought recently, but part 1 was allocated to Harrogate, Part 2 to Scarborough.

It costs £1 to reserve a book from another library in North Yorkshire, £10 to reserve one out of county, and can take weeks.

A highly regarded collection of Edwardian and Victorian children’s fiction, brought together by a previous chief librarian, has disappeared since the refurbishment. No one knows what has happened to it; I don’t think anyone cares.

One wonders what else had disappeared. None of the staff seem prepared to answer questions. I sometimes wonder if any are qualified librarians.

Of course there are good things about the refurbished library. There is a toilet, a coffee machine, computers. As my daughter says, it is wonderfully light and airy compared to the old library.

It runs craft mornings, knitting sessions (little jackets for bunting for the Tour de France when it came to Yorkshire earlier in the year, for instance).

But for someone like me, a writer interested in historical research, they are poor compensation for what has been lost.

Ruth Bowes by email

Library image courtesy of Nathan Williams wikimedia.org