But, you know, it would help if people paid their library fines. Apparently, over £347,000 is owed in library fines across Wales. Researchers found:
- The largest amount is in Rhondda Cynon Taf, where £67,679 is owed from the last three years.
- Second is Swansea, where borrowers owe £66,381.
- Cardiff library users owe £38,304 and
- In Newport the sum is £31,748.
Whichever way you look at it that's an awful lot of books that haven't been returned as well as money owed.
Several councils didn't even reply to the researchers' question, leading them to assume that the overall amount in Wales of unpaid library fines might be as high as half a million pounds, enough to build a new library or two perhaps.
That's why it is refreshing that Carmarthenshire Council (£4,320 unpaid in 2015) where I live is still supporting its libraries.
Recently it has held a series of Christmas book fairs in various libraries such as Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford. Authors were invited to present their books and give readings. Here is Angela Fish, who not so long ago gave up her day job as a lecturer to become a children's writer:
|Angela Fish with her books about Ben in the Spider Gate.|
And Bryce Thomas with his young adult books:
Basically, it's use it or lose it, people.
Libraries in Carmarthenshire do try. They also celebrated Children in Need day and have been making the most of the fact that it has been the year of Roald Dahl's birth centenary, putting on a series of events for schoolchildren.
And during Halloween Fun Week children at Llanelli Library took part in a Treasure Hunt. Everyone took home a fridge magnet and bookmark and went into a prize draw to win goody bags. There was a Story Time and a Halloween craft session.
I thought I'd look for some other good library news just to test whether the picture is all bad. In the past few months:
- A housing association and construction firm have joined forces to come to the rescue of a much-loved community library building.
- Friends of Llanfairfechan Community Library (FLCL) managed to get hold of a £30,000 Community Facilities Grant from the Welsh Government to do up their library which despite being one of the smallest libraries in Conwy had one of the highest children’s summer challenge readerships. Colwyn Bay-based Brenig Construction is carrying out the work free of charge.
- In the Rhondda valley another library is being renovated: Tonypandy, which is undergoing a total refurbishment financed by the council to the tune of £60,000 – which is less than those unpaid library fines! Let's hope all the new users of this library take their books back or pay their fines.
- And Ebbw Vale the library not far away has already had an extensive refurbishment and now offers improved disabled access, a re-designed IT suite and a new community room. You can get free Wi-Fi. And it hasn't lost any of its traditional features.
So, with some councils trying their damnedest to keep open the libraries they have, if people want to keep their local library open shouldn't they cease grumbling and use them? And pay their fines!
[David Thorpe is the writer of Marvel's Captain Britain, the sci-fi YA novels Hybrids, Doc Chaos: The Chernobyl Effect and the cli-fi fantasy Stormteller.]