Sunday, 13 October 2013

A dozen Mills and Boon and a book about Romans

Stony Stratford is a great community to live in. It's friendly place with many different events going on, most of which are family-friendly. I often tell people who don't know the area (and who know we are part of the car-is-king, sprawling Milton Keynes) how great it is that we have everything we need in walking distance: a mix of shops, restaurants, banks, pubs, riverside walks, the library.

Ah, the library. What a shock to the town when its closure was announced a couple of years ago. As regular visitors with the kids we really felt a special piece of Stony Stratford was to be taken away and feared a general decline of the High Street as a result.

Fortunately we were not the only ones to feel this, and there were some passionate people ready to co-ordinate protests against the plans. Posters appeared in shop windows, a petition circulated, but then a truly inspired idea took hold: everyone was to take out as many books as possible over a few days to create empty shelves - an imaginative way to show commitment to the library and the cause of keeping it open.

So a couple of days before the end of this protest I went along to find the library was already looking sparse. It was moving to see it in this state - what an endorsement for the library staff who must have feared for their jobs, to know the library was valued so greatly by the local population.

The kids wanted to join in this 'Wot no books' campaign too, but there were hardly any children's books suitable for them left by then (they were only five and two at the time). We took out a few books, including a relatively advanced text book about the Romans, and I ended up with a load of Mills and Boon (well at least they would be light to carry home). We didn't quite reach our quota - 15 books each for three of us would have been rather too much for me to carry, but we did our bit. The library was stripped of books and the story was covered by local and national press adding weight to the campaign.

What jubilation when the library was given a stay of execution and now the Town Council have stepped in to look after the building while Milton Keynes Council continues to provide the library service.

This week we had the pleasure of being invited to the screening of a documentary film about campaign which included interviews of people involved, including local children (Pippa among them). It made me feel very grateful to the Friends of Stony Stratford Library (FOSSL) who made it all happen. Without these people supporting the great asset that is the library, and the strength of the community spirit in our town, we may have lost our local library.

The film is on Youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA3XsWn-yVk

I'm pleased to say it is not all Mills and Boon and Romans for our library borrowing these days. Pippa is devouring all the Jacqueline Wilson books in sight, and my most recent read was the thought-provoking 'Long Song' by Andrea Levy.

So thank you FOSSL and library campaigners of Stony Stratford, we are very appreciative of all you did to preserve our access to quality books and the wonderful place that is the library. May it continue to thrive for years to come.


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