20.11.2014 - A passion for libraries
I was delighted to be invited to read at The Feminist Library - and they invited me to write a blog about my passion for libraries!
"I wish I could wax lyrical about all the reasons why I'm a fan of libraries – but there's neither space nor time. However, take it as read: I'm passionate about libraries. I'm passionate about feminism. There, I said it. Out and proud.
My feminism can be summed up as "the radical notion that women are people" (Marie Shear, 1986. For the history of this misattribution see http://www.beverlymcphail.com/feminismradicalnotion.html ). I have an equally radical belief that books – and by extension, education – should be freely available to all, and not just the wealthy. There's nowt so radical as a reader. Malala Yousafzai was right when she said "Extremists have shown what frightens them the most: a girl with a book".
Libraries are exciting, magical, transformative and dangerous.
A happy childhood memory is the Saturday trip to the local library. I chose four new books, which were mine for a whole week! And wonder of wonders: the Saturday after there were four more, then four more. I could never read them all... I explored new worlds, I learned new things. And here's the dangerous part: I thought new thoughts. It was the beginning of a love affair that's still going strong.
Which brings me to my recent visit to The Feminist Library, tucked into a University building on Westminster Bridge Road. I was honoured to read from my own work in such a great setting. It's a treasure trove of books, pamphlets, magazines and much more: many out of print, rare, if not unique. As I scanned the spines I recognised things I'd once owned but were lost, stolen or strayed over years of house moves in and out of the UK.
This is part of the power and importance of The Feminist Library and archives like it. We assume that 'somebody, somewhere' has these books and that we will never lose sight of them. It's a dangerous assumption. All too often it is simply the determination and dedication of rare individuals that stops such vital material from disappearing.
Anyone who tries to tell you that we don't need libraries any more because 'everything is online' is either woefully misinformed or lying. Besides – real, solid, here and now books can't be deleted at the click of a button or lost in a glitch in a 'hacker-proof' cloud. Libraries are time machines to the past and stargates to the future.
The Feminist Library celebrates its 40th birthday in 2015. At times it's been a bumpy ride. We need it more than ever in the face of the undermining of education for all, the wholesale eradication of public libraries and the ongoing struggle against misogyny.