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World without libraries is not one I want to be in.

Byline: VALERIE HILL

SOMETIMES, I contemplate what it would like to be single - with lots of "me" time, doing as I pleased and being able to sleep star-shaped in the bed.

Would I date again? Not sure I'd know where to start.

A newly-divorced girlfriend of mine is out there in the clubs and cocktail lounges, laughing decorously and gratefully accepting Cristal Champagne.

I don't frequent such places.

When another friend asked me where I do go to socialise, I guilelessly replied: "The library".

True, there are lots of men there in the local reading room. The trouble is, they're all over 70 and the only liquid refreshment they offer is a flask of mahogany brown tea.

With a Garibaldi, if it's happy hour.

They are not all bibliophiles. Some are obviously only in there for a warm, as the steaming gabardine macs testify on a damp day.

But, as a child, nothing gave me greater pleasure than a Saturday morning trot down to Haydock War Memorial Library, the smell of lavender polish on the parquet floor overpowering a five-year-old's tender nostrils.

The St Helens Gamble Institute held an even greater fascination, containing a museum, gramophone record library and, bizarrely, a room * ENJOYED this column? Then read more from Valerie at www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/valerie-hill full of stuffed animals. Was this just to remind us urban urchins of south Lancashire that there indeed was a whole wider world out there? My current library, in Rainhill, boasts a converted railway carriage.

Nonetheless, it is an oasis of calm and solitude. A delightful place for rumination and meditation.

And shouldn't they all be like that? Current research shows that many libraries are turning themselves into caf-less internet cafes, with more people visiting them to surf the net or send emails than to borrow the latest Georgette Heyer.

Figures released by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and accountability showed that, in 2008, five books were borrowed per head of the population. In 1994, it was 9.4. Last year, libraries also lent more than 30m CDs and DVDs.

Social habits change and a community-focused library is never going to be a smaller version of the Bodleian, in Oxford.

But there is still a demand for the traditional lending library, hence the recent outcry over the hare-brained scheme to close a number on the Wirral.

The internet has given us information overload; everything you need to know at the click of a button.

Great. But libraries give us a whole lot more. They provide a culture for learning, an ambience for reading and, just as important, a warm seat by the radiator on chilly winter days..

* IN OUR topsy-turvy world, there seems to be no place for the greater good.

Liverpool nurse Margaret Heywood filmed patient abuse at the Royal Sussex Hospital for Panorama, after profound complaints about health that resulted in questions in Parliament. Her reward for exposing this diabolical regime? Being found guilty of misconduct and struck off by the pompous Nursing & Midwifery Council, in spite of all the filmed patients giving their consent before broadcasting. Shouldn't the self-serving toadies on the Nursing & Midwifery Council be struck off for misconduct in failing in their duty to act on her findings?

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Libraries give us a culture for learning, an ambience for reading and so much more
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 24, 2009
Words:559
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