I was recently catching up with my missed youtube videos when an advert popped up on my screen. I must admit, I’m normally a fast skipper when it comes to adverts. However, this one completely captivated me and by the time I had finished watching I was eager to get involved. Project Literacy is, as stated on their website, “a global movement convened by Pearson to make significant and sustainable advances in the fight against illiteracy so that all people – regardless of geography, language, race, class, or gender – have the opportunity to fulfil their potential through the power of words.”
I have been in a position of privilege for the majority of my life: I am white, middle class and come from a comfortably well-off family. However, I still do struggle with my own experience of oppression in terms of sexuality, mental health etc. and I truly cannot imagine not having literature as a crutch. Representation is something I think is truly crucial to have a functioning and well-run society. I’m studying Comparative Literature at University and getting the opportunity to read widely for a degree is my ideal. Books have the power to change lives. I know this because they’ve changed mine and the idea that someone could miss out on that simply because of their race, language, geography, class or gender is saddening. Project Literacy are pushing for a change to not only literacy rates but the wider state of literacy in general.
I’m in the position where my local library is only 10 minutes down the road and due to the internet, everything is easily accessible but this isn’t the case for everyone. There are over 757 million people in the world (and the number grows) who can’t read and therefore are outcasted from a society that increasingly relies on being able to read. It is seen as being a flaw and a trait of being unintelligent however if you don’t offer people the tools, how are they expected to reach their potential.
Project Literacy really is a great project to back. It’d be great if you could help in any way you can, there are volunteer opportunities all over the world, donation pages and infographics to share on social media. Here’s their website if you’d like to get involved: https://www.projectliteracy.com.
With libraries becoming more and more equipped, it’s time to accept that they are moving with us into the new age. Numerous computers are installed, millions of research pages are only a click away and of course, the original USP remains the books. Personally, one of my favourite things about the library is the silence. While that sounds relatively sinister, it can be really hard to study in peace at home or even at a university library. There are a large amount of people that come purely to have a sheltered chat with their friends, which I have been guilty of myself but now library’s have introduced ‘Quiet’ or ‘Silent’ floors, you are guaranteed a place to work to your heart’s content. Also, there are now numerous cafes built inside libraries so you do not even have to leave the building in order to get a caffeine fix!
Another great aspect is the installation of computers, printers and photocopiers. I will never forget the fateful few days of no electricity in my house where I felt like a cavewoman searching for a meaning to life beyond having wifi. The library was my beacon of hope for studying and gave me the opportunity to work efficiently and in warmth. I also don’t own a working printer, so the 5p sheets of paper are what get my essays in on time.
I’ve heard arguments that libraries are now obsolete. This argument back and forth has been happening for some time and while I understand that we are taking a massive leap into a world with smart watches, robots and holographs, libraries still have a valid place in society. They have tried their best to remain modern and accessible to the masses which is what libraries have always tried to do. They offer a place of shelter, not just for printerless people like me but for people who are looking for jobs, for homeless people to sit in warmth and for people to meet and plan events in the local communities. Libraries are staples in our society. They encourage us to read and to educate ourselves further. They open their doors to anyone and everyone. Places like this in society need to be treasured and appreciated not replaced in order to make room for another Starbucks or fancy Apple Store.
I’ve not always been loyal to my library (the fines were a low point, okay!) but from being eight years old and feeling ecstatic that I could borrow books to spending hours upon hours studying for exams in my late teens, the importance of the library has always been evident to me. We should all try and support our local libraries a bit more.