Having rather diffidently gone online to check on the Daggers – phew! I’m in, along with five other devious and crafty crime-writers: SJ Bolton (Bantam Press, Transworld), RJ Ellory (Orion), Mo Hayder (Bantam Press, Transworld), Susan Hill (Vintage), and Philip Kerr (Quercus). Great company.
The Daggers are Britains’s own awards for crime writing, in various categories; what’s lovely about the Library Dagger is that it’s awarded by librarians and library users, and not just not for a single book but for all the books we’ve written. Libraries are facing hard times as the other, duller ‘books’ get balanced, and local authorities look to make cuts in their budget. Protest is the only option: I am warmed to incadescant rage by the erection of new traffic lights in my local town, replacing a perfectly good zebra crossing, at a cost of millions (it’s construction, folks!) while local village libraries are closed. I suspect that transport departments build empires for themselves, and find pointless work to do, while libraries costing next to nothing are scotched.
Libraries are church. They are coffee morning, afternoon tea. They are beacons, they are surprising. They succeed because they are always there. They feed children with ideas, they provide mothers with respite, they comfort and counsel the elderly. They are radical and unfazed. The people who work in them – and I only recently addressed a feisty bunch, the ALA, in America – are smart and funny and paid for library work, not for being the counsellors or teachers that they are. They are the largest of the Little Platoons Burke spoke about, when he atomized civic life two – three – centuries ago.
Lending a book doesn’t create work in County Hall. It creates minds. It creates the synapses of society, any society worth inhabiting.
Hurrah for the Daggers! But all halloos for the libraries!
I think you are so right about highways departments: the continued employment of the people in them requires them to keep coming up with road schemes. Here in County Durham we have bus lanes that run for 100 metres and cost £125k to build, while they too are looking to cut back on libraries.