The importance of libraries in rural areas

This blog was contributed by Alan Wylie on behalf of Voices for the Library

Joan_reading_WEBLibraries are seen by many as a lifeline and a crucial public service, especially if you are elderly, socially isolated, poor, vulnerable, or all of the above.

In rural areas, the local library, along with the village hall, pub and shop, is the focal point of community life. It’s a safe, trusted place for meeting friends and neighbours, a place for learning, information and leisure and sometimes just a place to keep warm.

If a community is unfortunate enough not to have a static library, then mobile/housebound services fill the gap, helping those that are most isolated.

Let’s look at the data:

In Lincolnshire there are plans to cut 32 rural libraries and slash the mobile service, and there are similar plans in Herefordshire. The Daily Telegraph wrote about the impact of the cuts to mobile libraries on rural communities last year.

In the past 2-3 years, around 3,000 library staff have been made redundant and 300-600 libraries have been closed or taken out of public control.

So why are libraries so important to the rural elderly and why must we protect and improve them?

1. They’re accessible

 The obvious advantage of having a local library is that it is local. Accessibility is crucial if you have mobility problems and/or haven’t got the money for bus fare.

2. They help to bridge the digital divide

Elderly people in rural areas face significant challenges when it comes to IT access, including infrastructure problems and set-up costs. The vast majority of public libraries offer free IT access and basic IT training to the public.

3. They help to combat social isolation

Libraries are social places where people can chat, read and keep in touch with the outside world. For elderly people who can’t access a static library, mobile and housebound services can fill the gap. Sometimes a friendly smile from a library worker can make all the difference to an isolated and vulnerable persons day or week.

So overall, the message is a positive one. Public libraries can help to improve the quality of life of the rural elderly, therefore it’s vitally important that we protect and improve them for future generations.

Age UK has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities faced by older people living in rural communities in England. Find out more about our campaign 

Read another blog about rural ageing 

6 responses to “The importance of libraries in rural areas

  1. Pingback: Round up | Alan Gibbons' Diary

  2. Pingback: Libraries News Round-up: 15th August 2013 | The Library Campaign

  3. Pingback: The Future Of The Library | Consilient Interest

  4. Read this post with interest. I tried to highlight the problems of old people in the countryside in my blog : ‘Britain is no Country for Old Men’
    Monday, 22 July 2013 :
    Britain is no country for old men living in the less than idyllic English countryside

    More and more of my posts seem to dwell on the issues that concern Age Concern.

  5. I agree with everything that you have said – libraries are an important part of the community for all ages and it is sad to see them being closed. I was concerned by the line at the start though, that they are “sometimes just a place to keep warm.” I think there are bigger problems at play if that is true..

  6. Libraries form such an important part of the community and many older people need them to be accessible. Great article.

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