Tuesday 23rd July 2024

The library: a money-saving miracle of Christmas

December has barely begun and already I could fill an article with ideas on how to haemorrhage money whilst attempting to have a ‘holly, jolly Christmas’.

From polystyrene cups of mulled wine at £4 to fairground rides for a fiver, you name it – I’ve been fleeced.

But kids need entertaining over the festive period (three, in my case) and money doesn’t grow on Christmas trees – not that I know of.

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There is a saviour…just don’t remind Andre Walker, of the New York Times.

“Nobody goes to libraries anymore. Close the public ones and put the books in schools,” he tweeted.

If the London-based columnist thought this post on a late October Sunday would quickly slide away into the Twittersphere, largely uncared for, he was in for a rude awakening.

My children started going to the library from just a few months of age.

One of the most impassioned defences – among thousands – of the library came from Alex Halpern, eponymous ‘Angry Librarian’ who fired off a torrent of Tweets, including:

“[The library meets] a community’s need for educational and recreational materials, PARTICULARLY FOR YOUNG FAMILIES…”

And so they do.

Picture this: your local library is probably putting the ‘art’ in ‘heart of the community’

While my chief reason for library usage right now is to entertain my children, the facilities and activities provided – either free of charge or heavily subsidised – do indeed bring a whole community together.

My children started going to the library from just a few months of age, making the most of the ‘rhyme-time’ classes often hosted by the librarians themselves, whose role has vastly expanded in recent years.

Over the summer, my four-year-old got her first taste of the theatre at her local library: ‘Alan In Wonderland’ by the Booster Cushion Theatre for Children. A one-man show, I take my hat off to anyone who can keep a group of kids enthralled for more than a few minutes, let alone the near one-hour performance that day.

There is far too much required reading out there to not require a bit of borrowing from time to time.

Over the course of the summer holidays there was also a reading challenge to encourage repeat visits as well as arts and crafts tables set up for youngsters, to produce their own masterpiece for the eye-catching backdrop.

Throw in a sensory area, puzzles and games (my four-year-old has now learned to lose as well as win at ‘Connect Four’ as well as being a dab-hand at ‘Guess Who’) and even a ‘normal’ day with no particular activities planned can offer a whole world of discovery.

And I have barely touched upon the books.

A library is a great place to Potter around

As an author, I should, and do, encourage people to go out and purchase books as often as they can but there is far too much required reading out there to not require a bit of borrowing from time to time.

Even in this digital age, there is only so much a student, author or aficionado can learn about a particular subject via the Google search engine.

Even the poor, put-upon Mr Walker – appropriately as we are approaching Christmas – has now become a wise man:

“Dear (and I can’t believe I am saying this) all 110,000 people who replied to my Tweet about libraries.

“Your sheer numbers have proved the point that libraries aren’t as unpopular as I believed this morning…”

From ‘Christmas Craft’ sessions to writing a letter to Santa, my local libraries have my kids and me heavily pencilled in for a few visits between now and the New Year…guaranteeing a warmer glow than any thimble-full of gluhwein could ever provide.

Photo by Oscar Chevillard on Unsplash





Greg Lansdowne

As the stay-at-home parent of three young children, I have certainly placed more emphasis on keeping a watchful eye on money since the first was born in April 2013. I am a freelance writer and communications professional based in Essex.

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