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It is with some dismay that I read of Dumfries and Galloway Council proposing cuts to Wigtown Library opening hours, from 40.5 hours to 17.5 hours per week. To many, this is possibly nothing more than the next cut in an already over-stretched (some may prefer to say badly-spent) budget forced upon the council by circumstances beyond their control. But for those of us who live here in Wigtownshire, the threat of cutting the library opening hours is nothing short of outrageous!
Wigtown is a small town - not a village, a town - home to around 1,000 people. It's our nearest town, about 10 miles from Frugaldom. The County Buildings, in which the library is now located, underwent massive refurbishment between 2000 and 2003 shortly after Wigtown was awarded official recognition as Scotland's national book town. I'll repeat myself here; Wigtown is Scotland's national BOOK town - as in the town of BOOKS. Any Government cut backs that could result in restricting public access to books within a national book town is nothing short of scandalous! In fact, if it wasn't such a serious threat, one might be forgiven for considering it as a sick joke!
The county buildings and all that they contain are the hub of the Wigtown community, with the library providing free access to books, papers, research facilities, computing and, lest we forget, the Internet. It has a children's area, a fun place for littlies to gather and listen to the fantastic tales told by the likes of Renita Boyle , one of the local authors and storytellers.
A library opens up a whole new world to anyone who may not necessarily have the wherewithal to buy books. It provides online access and contact with the outside world for visiting writers, book collectors and other visitors to the area, especially during festivals and fairs. Let's face it, we can't rely on mobile phones about here and it's not as though everyone has phone lines installed, let alone owns a computer with an Internet connection.
Wigtown library serves as an information access point for tourists and yes, some may see it as taking advantage of the place, but there's no getting away from the fact that the library can provide a bit of warmth, comfort and peace to enjoy a good book while just passing the time of day. Libraries ensure books stay in print and are made available to all who want to turn real pages and they allow us the freedom to choose what, where and when we read.
A library is about providing an open learning facility for anyone who cares to venture through its doors. It should be accessible throughout the day and week. If these proposed cuts go ahead, will anyone take the time to co-ordinate the newly reduced opening hours with the times of our dwindling public bus services? We have no public transport to or from our tiny corner of this county, but we do have a visit from the library bus every three weeks. Will the library buses be stopped in the near future, I wonder?
We, as frugalers, should embrace and support these precious resources in whatever way we can. Even if you would not be directly affected by a reduction in services, you represent the electorate whose votes put Governments and their people in high places. Our tax money contributes to their salaries, so it is up to us to ensure that these people take responsibility for how they spend our money.
As frugalers, spending within our own means is something we do.
As frugalers, avoiding unsustainable debts is something we do.
As frugalers, making do and mending is part of our daily routine.
As frugalers, sharing our knowledge freely is something we do.
As frugalers, doing our best to support one another is something we do.
As frugalers, access to public services may be paramount to the survival of our lifestyle.
To everyone who is following, everyone who is attempting to follow and even to those of you who do no more than read about following a frugal lifestyle, I would ask that you carefully consider needs, as opposed to wants.
In my opinion, we need our libraries to remain open and accessible fulltime. For some, they are the only leisure facilities left within the realms of affordability and for others, they provide the only warm and quiet retreat available to them for relaxation, reading and/or study. For writers, illustrators, photographers, translators and editors, libraries represent a trickle of income derived by way of Public Lending Rights, for those with eyesight problems, they may be the only local source of large print or audio-books... the list goes on!
Why shouldn't we stand together and fight these proposed cuts when they could result in us giving up the luxury of free access to the books and services we need when we need them?