OPINION: Help write a happy ending for libraries

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

It’s the age old conundrum, but if you wanted to go in search of answers, it used to be that the library was the place to head.

Now, with the power of Google, that’s probably no longer the case.

But, despite the rise of e-readers and Amazon Kindle, the old-fashioned printed novel is still going strong.

Which is, sadly, more than can be said for many of Sheffield’s libraries.

The Star reports today that the number of books being borrowed at many of the city’s libraries has fallen by more than a third since they were handed over to volunteer control from Sheffield Council last year.

It’s crushing news, when so many gave up their own time to battle so long to keep these libraries open and rescue them from the jaws of council cutbacks.

It must be disappointing, too, for the army of volunteers who still give up their time every week to keep these libraries open.

And it’s here that the chicken and egg metaphor returns: were libraries forced to become volunteer run because they weren’t being used enough, or are they now not being used as much because they are no longer operated by Sheffield Council?

One thing is for certain: the efforts of those who are volunteering to keep the libraries open cannot be faulted.

They are passionate, selfless, community-driven individuals who are trying to do their best to help the people in their area and maintain an important service for the benefit of the people and families who live there.

But if the residents of Sheffield don’t support thse volunteers, their efforts will go to waste.

And that would be a crying shame.

Sheffield’s libraries are not just places to borrow books.

Many of them are key neighbourhood hubs where isolated members of the community can socialise as well as obtain information on important issues.

The plans for Walkley library, which involve subsidising book borrowing service with a cafe, might be the way to keep libraries open.

What all our city’s libraries need are people through the doors, using the services and borrowing books.

If you do just one thing this week above and beyond your routine, make it getting to a library and borrowing a book.

Otherwise the next thing you read might not be a gripping fiction, but a grim true story of library closures instead.