CHILDREN’S author Frank Cottrell-Boyce has spoken to the Star about his passion for libraries, as the town’s review of services draws to a close.
In March, St Helens Council announced it was asking for public feedback on library services as part of a review due to “unprecedented” funding cuts. The review is underway until Friday, April 28 – and more than 1,500 survey responses have been received.
In 2015, 22 of 96 library jobs – 23 per cent – were scrapped in order to meet saving requirements of £270,000.
Frank, who grew up in St Helens, said: “As a kid I spent a huge chunk of every Saturday morning in the library in Rainhill, working my way first through the children’s section, then as I got older, through the big glossy travel books.
“It made me feel that the little community I lived in was (a) connected to the wide world and to history and (b) that that community valued me and my education so much that they had provided this safe, free space and these amazing books for me. It made me feel that I should give something back – that I was part of something.”
The author, who is also known for his collaborations with film director Danny Boyle, added: “I’ve had a very unconventional career and have worked with lots of people who have also had unconventional careers. When I talk to them I find that pretty well all of them - whether they’re film directors or choreographers, engineers or medical innovators - they all have a local library in their story.
“It’s from such people that progress and new ideas come and libraries are the nurseries in which they flourish.”
He added: “I often hear it said that information can now be gained free from the internet.
"But this wasn’t purely about the content. It was about having a space, a space that invited you in and said you were important, a space that said that thinking and reading were important to the wider society, a place where you could meet other people with similar interests and, above all, where there was a librarian who could guide you.
“When my kids were little the library was a real refuge, especially when it was rainy.
“You can feel really cut off when you’ve got pre-school children, or when you’re old, or unemployed, or newly retired – all those moments in life when you’re suddenly all alone... the library is a door back into the world.”
n To complete the survey, visit sthelens.gov.uk/librarysurvey2017 or your local library.