Yesterday morning I went to the wonderful Hexham Library, and met representatives, past and present, from the Library service, and members of Friends of Libraries in Tynedale. The library has, to the credit of the County Council, been revamped and expanded. This is on the back of new libraries in places like Haltwhistle, and an integrated facility, working with the tourist information centre, in Corbridge. When I look at the unbelievable approach of Newcastle City Council it can be compared to the support that NCC has given our library service. However, as always with civic amenities use it or lose it - there is so much more to the library than a shelf load of books, and I urge locals to make use of the amazing facility. Like many I was surprised to read in last weeks Courant that the new Labour NCC administration have possible plans to move the library to a new spot at the bus station. I will believe such a plan when I see it, and would look at the detail of any proposal, but it is hard to see why one would move the library from its central location in the town, particularly when the library has so much to offer, and could do more. There is no question that future governments and new and future county councils will look to integrate public facilities in co-located public spaces, and rightly so. My apologies to my hosts for being late, but we discussed all matters literary and more for nearly an hour and I left a lot the wiser.
I have not visited the libraries that exist in Kielder and Allendale but would also urge locals to make use of this facility that is a genuine asset on your doorstep. I plan to try and rectify this omission some time this year.
One final point on books: we have some wonderful independent bookshops in Hexham and Corbridge and commercial booksellers as well. Please think long and hard before you buy online. Leave aside the failure of Amazon to pay tax on its place of business ie your UK purchase, as opposed to residence -it is offshore. This flaw in the taxation system the government are trying to address [see previous blog posts]. It is simply this: if you buy online you are failing to support your local shops - which are the self same shops that we all like and admire, and which add so much to the character of our streets in Hexham and the market place in Corbridge. The consumer is king - but the consumer is you. We all must take responsibility for how we shop.