Yesterday, Holly and I attended a 50th birthday party for a very special local celebrity.
No, it wasn’t a film star or a writer or footballer.
It was our local library – Old Marston Library – which celebrated half a decade of being the smallest and sweetest place in Oxfordshire.
No bigger than a small living room, the library is, nevertheless, a wonderful treasure trove of books for adults and children alike. I’ve found the latest bestsellers in there alongside old classics and there is always something fascinating to take home to read. This is thanks to the tireless efforts of Maria Ilett, the library manager, who takes a real and genuine interest in her visitors and ensures that, if someone is currently into, say, reading westerns, the library has a well-stocked shelf of the genre. She’s also happy to help research books if you say there’s a particular style of writing you like. We’d be lost without her.
County councils are facing ever-decreasing budgets these days and unfortunately libraries are being one of the hardest hit services. Old Marston was set for closure but luckily the council gave us a reprieve … of sorts. At some point in the future, Maria’s role will be halved, with the expectation that volunteers will run the library 50% of the time. We’re all quite worried about this because librarians have specialist skills that volunteers, unless expertly trained, will lack.
The feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive. The families who came love our local library and would like to see it around for another 50 years. We can but hope…
Holly wanted to write about her experience on the day as a helper. I’ll pass you over to her now.
‘We must keep them going!’
Since my mum was involved in the library party, I wanted to help out too because I like being helpful. I helped set up for the party, blew up balloons and then worked on the craft stall, showing people how to make bookmarks. I also helped with the drinks. Quite a lot of people came which was good. And I got my picture taken by a photographer from the local paper. That was OK though because I have been in the paper before so I wasn’t shy. I had my photo taken with our local MP Andrew Smith. He was just like a normal man. We had to hold special poses and the photographer kept saying, ‘This will be the last one’, but it wasn’t for quite a while. My face started getting sore from all the smiling!
I like Old Marston Library and I wanted to support it. I don’t want to have to travel into town through the traffic to get some books out. It’s nice to be able to go after school – and lots of my friends do too. Maria is very friendly and we know her well. The library has a lot of selection and it’s very cosy.
I think the plans to shut libraries are very bad and it would be sad to have no more Maria. If people shut libraries, then it may stop children from reading books because they might think there is no use for libraries if it’s OK for you to close them. We must keep them going.
So I really enjoyed the party. Next time though we’ll get the people who made the mess clear the floor!
You can read all about the day in a special blog we set up to commemorate it all. And, just to end, please support your local library. They really are a treasure worth having.