The internet is the best research tool since time began, and is definitely capable of fulfilling our research needs. Gone are the days when we would need to trawl through articles or periodicals on dusty library shelves as a research student. I am fully aware of the convenience that the internet provides and it is truly phenomenal.
However, the purpose of libraries is not purely to deliver research materials. The opportunity to borrow books free of charge is a truly fantastic one for every portion of society. Books that can be used again and again by all – what a fabulous notion.
But this is not the only use of the local library. As a student, teacher and now as a parent, I am fully aware of the sanctuary and haven that can be provided within the walls of a local library.
Imagine my alarm when I asked a class of students how many were members of a local library and only a few raised their hands. There was one student who did not even know that he could borrow books at the library free of charge. I hope that he is the exception.
Many students also said that their local library had closed, and they didn’t know where their nearest one was now.
Libraries: a quiet place to study
My concern is largely for those students who perhaps belong to busy households, where they may not have a quiet space to work at home.
I grew up in such a household, with three siblings and people coming and going. Quiet was seldom an option. As a result, I often gravitated to the library in the town hall, with its grandeur and gravitas. The library concealed shelf after shelf, and row after row, of potential adventures and magical journeys.
Once I was older, I sought out my local library, in its more modest and humble settings, embarking on the journey myself equipped with my trusty books and folders. Whatever else was going on, I knew I could always work, revise or study at the local library.
It is probably only natural that, as an English teacher, I constantly seek out libraries. However, my husband, who is from a completely scientific background, also fondly remembers the weekly trips to his local library as a child. He is a firm believer in reading for pleasure and is still an avid reader. He thinks that it was his frequent visits to the library that instilled a love of reading in him from an early age, making him a lifelong reader. Surely it is this love for reading that we want to nurture and encourage in our young people today?
The key concern now is that many of the students who most need the quiet space of their local library do not have that option, as cuts to local services have been devastating. And these young people do not have access to free books to develop a love of reading. Tragically, the closures of libraries are possibly disadvantaging those students who would need this service the most.
Anjum Peerbacos is a senior teacher in a boys' Catholic secondary in North London