THE BLOG

Get The Grumpy Unfriendly Library Staff Out! (... For Our Children's Sake!)

14/10/2015 10:55 BST | Updated 09/10/2016 10:12 BST

Nothing does or will ever justify public library cuts and school library cuts. Library cuts are unacceptable in the twenty-first century, in a modern country like Britain, and they should simply be made unlawful!

The trend, unfortunately, is for librarian to be replaced by unqualified staff. They have nothing to do with a librarian; they do not have the training or the knowledge of a librarian. It may come out cheaper for the councils and schools than a proper librarian, but it is the wrong approach.

I have seen some library staff or "customer service assistants" in action. I must sadly say that they were cold. They barely acknowledged the children's presence, especially when given a very polite "Good morning!" or a "Goodbye!" by the children. They openly ignored some children waiting while they were speaking to each other. I even saw one ridiculously telling off a small baby for putting books in the wrong section with a "Don't do it again!" and another "It takes hours to tidy the books, you know?" If they are customer service assistants, what has happened to the "customer service" bit in their job title, then?

When I visit children's libraries with my children, I always expect the librarians to be smiling and friendly, have a good word with them or show some interest to what the children like reading. After all, in a children's library, the librarians' almighty customers are the children themselves, aren't they? And the librarians are just soooooo good at it! Librarians are simply the best and most friendly people in the world, although they struggle to keep their job and to receive an honest salary.

Unfortunately, the unfriendly cheap library staff is making the case of those who want to close libraries and think librarians are no use, and that, with the raise of the eBooks, libraries are no use anyway.

I love books and I absolutely love libraries. I think that, without libraries, I would not have written and published over 50 children's books. Books are part of my daily life because of the many libraries I visited in my life, and I am so happy I did so. I remember that I used to visit my local library every day from the age of six or seven. I always enjoyed reading books there and then borrowing books too. As a child and later as a teenager, I was a hungry reader. My passion for writing books was certainly fed by the time I spent reading books in libraries. I had to read everything, children's books, comics, fictions, thrillers, fantasy, plays, non-fiction... There was absolutely no limit to my hunger. I come to think that I owe big deal to my local libraries and their librarians for the author I have become today.

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Although I sell children's books in both print and eBook formats, I do not believe (contrary to other people, some are even writers!) that libraries have no reason to exist any longer. I, for a fact, donate through my publishing company some of my books to public libraries from time to time. It is my way to participate to something that is bigger than us, i.e. to offer the least fortunate children in our communities the possibility to read my books free because no children should ever be forgotten.

A library is more than a quiet place to read books. It is also open to everyone, whatever their background, race, gender or nationality, whether poor or rich. It is also a quiet place one can find refuge in a world where everything is quick and loud. In the same way as the TV did not kill the radio and the computers did not kill the newspapers and magazines, the eBook will not kill the libraries.

I would like all children to enjoy visiting their local libraries exactly as I did when I was little, with some friendly librarians who will help them with their searches, who will share their knowledge of books, who will make them feel welcome and spread the great happiness and love for books that all libraries have to offer.

One example of this is the Summer Reading Challenge. A great initiative promoted by all libraries in Britain for children aged between 4-11 years old, who are invited to take part in a reading challenge and win fun rewards for every book they read during the summer. It is fun, it makes reading fun and it will, hopefully, encourage more children to read and visit regularly their local libraries.

I love libraries and have always supported their campaign against government and local government cuts in staffing and budgets. My message to the government and to local governments who want to close libraries across the country (and those who do not, too!) is simple: Get your priorities right! Get the grumpy unfriendly library staff out. Employ and train more friendly librarians for our libraries instead, for the sake of our libraries, for the sake of our communities and most importantly for the sake of our children!