In this piece, guest reporter GG talks about the importance of libraries as safe spaces for vulnerable women and how she thinks they might be shutting them down on the quiet.
I am a woman aged 44, and I’ve got experience of homelessness and one short experience of prison in Japan. I have experience of domestic violence. I have experience of childhood sexual abuse. I have experience of being a single mother. And I have the experience of having my children taken away in the courts.
And I’m someone who throughout my whole life in the highs and the lows of all issues, libraries, libraries have always been accessible to me. I’ve taken my children there, I breastfed my children, I changed nappies, I’ve got each of my children their own library cards and we were able to go and get books on a rainy day. When the crying seemed deafening, I’ve gone there to use the Internet and I haven’t had any data on my phone and I’ve been able to research where I can go to a food bank when I also haven’t had food. I’ve gone their for human companionship after my children were taken and I was living alone in a bedsit In Wood Green. I have gone there to distract my mind when my mental health has been playing up and the books have soothed me.
The art, the poetry, the philosophy. I’ve had access to books in a way that I felt safe, not lingering around in Waterstones feeling guilty. Libraries are such an important part of our community and they are trying to close them by the back door. They Closed them last year and then reopened them with a booking system,. Not only does the booking system discriminate against the vulnerable who don’t have the option or the ability to plan their life ahead, but even those who have stability and who are working full time often find it very difficult to book an exact time when they can go to the library.
We must not let them close libraries by the back door. Everyone would say, Oh, but you can get everything on Amazon now. Oh, you can get everything online. We need to have a space that is safe for women and children, for homeless, for mentally ill, for people who just come out of prison, for people who don’t no longer have day centres to go to, for people in overcrowded housing. We need to have safe spaces where you can just go and sit and think and mind your business.