In the well-known fable by Aesop the north wind challenges the sun to a competition to establish which of the two is the stronger. The north wind, convinced of his own superiority, suggests that they should see which of them can be the first to remove a man's coat. The north wind begins, puffing and blowing. But the harder the wind blows the more determinedly the man clutches the coat to his person and at last the wind is compelled to give up. The sun, who has been waiting patiently, shines down on the man, casting her warm rays on him as he walks along. In time the man, warmed by the sun, removes his coat. The sun, much to the wind's chagrin, declares herself the winner. The brutality of the wind is but nothing compared to the warmth of the sun's golden rays.
This fable came into my mind last week after I had had yet another conversation about the future of public libraries in England. There has been considerable coverage of the issue in the media, both locally and nationally, and in order that balance be achieved defenders of the public library system are juxtaposed with those for whom libraries 'have had their day'. These head-to-heads over which position is the right one are dispiriting beyond language. Initially, listening to people who see no use or relevance to libraries in our contemporary society made me angry, but increasingly it has made me sad, even sorry for them. On the 5th of February library supporters across the country took part in a day of action to raise awareness of the threat to our libraries and also to us as library users. That evening during a news bulletin on Radio 4 one gentleman, a member of a think-tank, suggested that people now chose to visit bookshops with attached cafes rather than go to libraries and that the three-for-two tables at Waterstones, cheap books from Amazon and special deals at the check-out at Tesco's made libraries redundant.
This man was wrong. He, like many others, seems not to understand what it is that libraries offer their users. So instead of rallying more arguments I have decided to show this gentleman and others, who share his beliefs, what they are missing when they suggest that Costa Coffee has more to offer than a public library. Nobody likes a good coffee more than I do but the two are incommensurate. Libraries offer a world of books, not to mention much more besides. In the coming weeks I intend to share some of the many ways in which I use my local library, the books that myself and my daughter borrow, the Internet resources, inter-library loans, newspapers, journals, films, music and much more that are available to anybody with a reading card. Libraries are wonderful places full of potential and possibility, each one different, each one unique, each one a place where dreams can flourish.
Aesop's Fables by Anne Millborne & Lucinda Edwards, available in hardback from Usborne books on line (http://www.usborne.com/) at £12.99, P&P £3.50.
Also available from Amazon (Amazon.co.uk) £9.74 new or from £1.83 second hand, P&P from £2.80.
Alternatively log onto http://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/ and do a key word search for Aesop's fables. This finds 22 matches including:
- My First Aesop's Fables by Martha Lightfoot
- The Very Best of Aesop's Fables retold by Margaret Clark
- Orchard Book of Aesop's Fables by Michael Morpurgo
- Aesop's Animated Fables Volumes 1 & 2
Books and DVDs can be delivered to the library of your choice. A borrowing charge applies to DVDs.