I received my first library card when I was around five years old, spending many Saturday mornings at my local library through to my twenties. I started reading graphic novels there, discovered the Sociology section, and it my father introduced me to Spike Milligan and “The Goon Show,” using a cassette rented from there.
However, my last visit there was because the nearby public toilet was being renovated. I can see why the visits became scarce: having a disposable income, buying my own copies of what I had read, and finding ever more information and media online and on demand. What may have finally done it was trying to rediscover some information I once found there before.
I like looking at old programme listings for TV and radio stations: they are like a social document, showing how people used to entertain themselves, and what interests people had. Unless someone finds and puts the information you want online, you have to know where to go yourself and, for me, it was the stacks of old local newspapers kept at the library, so those Saturday mornings were usually spent photocopying yellowed newsprint, or even copying out stuff by hand.
About six years ago, remembering to use the library again, I went in, and was told the papers were taken away some years before, when the library was renovated by the county council and opened as a “Discovery Centre.” It now has a café, computers, children’s play area, arts space, museum space, and the local registry office was shoehorned in some time later – until a local business stepped in, the council nearly put the post office in there too… Yes, there are fewer books than before.
I was advised to check the “Local Studies Centre” across the road, but it turned out the newspapers were not kept there either. If I really did want to find out which DJs were on the local Top 40 station Power FM in 1991, I would have to travel to the next town to find them. Once I also had another, saner reason to travel, I went to that town’s library – it was still called a “library,” and acted more like one.
So, what I can tell you is that 103.2 Power FM, a station whose jingles still ring in my head nine years after it became just another outpost of a national network, had presenters that are still very active in local radio – breakfast presenters Pete Wardman and Cheryl Phillips, daytime DJ Bernie Simmons, and Chris Kelly in the evening. Meanwhile, the teenage overnight presenter, Scott Mills, has been at BBC Radio 1 for nearly twenty years now. However, drive-time host Adrian Lovett left broadcasting to complete a politics degree, become an MP, then work for charities and anti-poverty groups, including Oxfam, Save the Children and ONE. Yes, I have used online resources for the further information, but I had to know where to start.
For many, libraries are still a valuable resource that are too useful to lose, even if I find it harder to find a use for mine. Even for something delightfully obscure, knowledge should not be made harder to find and, if we going to stay online instead, nothing can be left behind.