Authors Highlight Importance of Public Libraries in Radio 6 Music Special

Those who follow us on Twitter may have noticed, last week, a string of quotes that we posted of authors discussing where their love of libraries comes from. We love libraries at Axiell as well and, being a regular listener to BBC Radio 6 Music, I’m glad we could share with you some snippets of their celebration of all things booky and municipal.

After a week of celebrating libraries in late 2014, digital station, 6 Music, returned to the theme for a one off special broadcast live from Manchester Central Library, presented by Guy Garvey of the band Elbow and Philip Selway of Radiohead.

In addition to this was a one hour special where popular authors, from Stephen King to Ann Cleeves, spoke of their experiences at libraries and played tracks that inspired their work.

This was more than just sentiment though as some of the authors highlighted, with great passion, some key points about the role of libraries within our society. A role, described by author and screenwriter, John Niven, as ‘important’ and ‘undervalued’.

But libraries clearly aren’t undervalued by these authors. Paul Charles, author of the acclaimed Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy series, described how libraries pathed his way to the enchanted world of books and all without having to “blag” his parents to “chalk up some money”.

Not undervalued by Albert Einstein either, according to Belinda Bauer.

She also spoke of her joy of going down to her local library as a child in her pyjamas in the evening and reading between the aisles while her parents were in the adult section.

Crime writer, Ann Cleeves, shared similar memories of her trips to the local library with her parents. She said:

“I don’t remember any of my teachers from then but I do remember the librarian, Mrs McGregor. She knew the sort of books that I would like. Every trip was such a huge anticipation. She’d pull out from behind the counter a book that she had saved just for me.”

Like Paul Charles before and later in the show Mark Billingham and Simon Toyne, Ann says her interest in literature stems from early visits to her local public library. However, libraries later became possibly even more vital to her, as the predominant means of sustaining her livelihood.

So much is Ann’s passion for her local book repository that she spoke stingingly about the closures that countless library services around the country are suffering. Her song choice reflected this as she introduces Palaces of Gold by English folk singer, Martin Simpson, talking of the song’s anger and its theme of equality.

“When people start talking about closing libraries that makes me angry too,” She added.

Novelist, Kate Mosse, also paid homage to the underlying equality that a public library service promotes within communities.

This was also noted in Department for Culture, Media & Sport’s 2014 Independent Library Report

“Despite digital growth… there is still a need for a safe, free space for all citizens… particularly for the vulnerable”.

Because libraries aren’t just for writers.

Now, some may be horrified to hear that the show also involved a drumming lesson in the library itself, as drummers from Radiohead and New Order/Joy Division taught Elbow SINGER, Guy Garvey, a couple of their hits but fret not!

Indeed, Libraries are so much more than a place with free books and these comments, perhaps the most telling, came from someone outside of the literary circle, Mr Garvey himself.

This picks up on another central issue discussed in the DCMS report.

“At least 20% of the population have no digital technology at home, and far more fail to understand how to make the most of what they do have.”

As the library of the future comes into being, the importance of the physical space and technological proficiencies; as highlighted by these writers, musicians and independent report writers; is clear.

Many are worried about what this future will hold for libraries so it is great news to see public figures speaking out on the subject and with such emotion.

Yet there is a clear warning in what they were saying.


To listen to these shows, head to the BBC iPlayer before the 6th of October 2015. Links are below:

6 Music Celebrates Libraries: Paperback Writers

Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour, Live from Manchester Central Library


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