Renowned wildlife film maker expresses shock at proposed cuts to Mull and Iona library services

Mull’s celebrated international wildlife film maker, Gordon Buchanan, was a pupil at Tobemory High School.

He sees books – rightly – as an essential part of learning and is astonished that the provision of managed access to books is being cut in the sister isles of Mull and Iona. Tobermory High School is to lose its Librarian. The islands are also to lose their Library Van service – which enables inclusivity of provision in communities so many of which are remote rural.

Mr Buchanan says: ‘Books have the ability to transport you anywhere at any time, no matter how remote your community.’

He is talking about the prompts to the imagination supplied by books, stirring the mind to internal travel and enabling vicarious experience – which fills many of the gaps inevitable in everyone’s physical life. However adventurous and curious, there are always limits.

Today, social media and pocket sized wifi digital devices with effective but limited screens breed pocket sized information bites. This has enormous utility – and yes, there are digital platforms like Kindle and ipad are capable pocket libraries.

But the eyes get tired faster when trying to read a screen for substantial periods than in focusing on pages. And the analogue experience of readig a book has features which cannot be replicated in digital reading.

Some of this can be a physical nuisance in the strain of holding up a large book while reading it and turning pages. But even that has sit positive aspects.

  • You can see the progress you’re making.
  • Flicking back through a book is actually faster than scrolling on a screen to locate a remembered passage you want to read again. The eyes have logged its position on a double page spread; and the hands have a physical memory to asist the mind in an educated guess of how far back it was.
  • You can feel the light and heavy sides of the book come into balance – and then lose it again.
  • And when the last section held in the right hand becomes very light, you know you’re nearing the end – and how many people then consciously slow up, to prolong the enjoyment of a particularly absorbing read; and to stave off that awful moment of finishing it.

The time it takes to read a book, as opposed to absorbing Twitter snippets and Facebook’s unstructured information, draws you into to a world beyond your own. Coming to the end of a book is often a shock, when that world retreats and the arterial connections to the ‘real’ world have to be sewn up again.

Most readers will know the period of disorientation after finishing a gripping book, the time it takes ‘to come back’.

Gordon Buchanan’s remarks galvanise awareness of just how much is lost to our young folk if they are not to be guided by their librarians into a independent relatinoship with books at so formative a stage of their lives.

Remembering the value of books to his own educational experience, he says: ‘To axe what I feel is an essential service is regressive. People living on the Islands who at times may feel cut off are more so owing to this decision.

‘”How cut-backs by the local authority will compromise your learning is a sad lesson to teach the children of Tobermory High School.’

So much of life is complex and needs to be unwound and opened slowly to let it be properly understood.

There is a real role for wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am information, but  it is only part of the story of the sharing of experience and knowledge – and the binding of spells.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • The cutting back of libraries is nothing new and no doubt will continue to happen in the future – when living in Buckinghamshire our villge Library was due to close because our local District Council had to save money. Our local village library had plenty of historical interest as the original library was opened as an annex to the village hall by a £50.00 cheque given the the village by Florence Nightingale (the cheque is still in the library) With historical books on its shelves it was a great village asset. The District Council at the time decided that ‘all’ libraries should come under control of the Council and all the historical books were removed to a central store and ‘up to date’ books placed in our library and a librarian appointed by the Council. Many years later 2006 saw the first of cuts to libraries,full time staff down to 3 days a week, a year later open 2 day per week and finally in 2008 saw the intention to close the library completely in favour of 1 very expensive and large mobile library serving most of the area. The village defied the closure and although we lost the paid librarian we had volunteer librarians working 3 days a week. Then they took all the books back to a central store leaving the library bare. On investigation the historical books that were removed way back were gifted to the library and by deed could be returned to our library – on request we were told they had been destroyed by fire 40 years previous. The village started to ‘collect’ books of all sorts for the library buying new books from the sale of duplicate books etc. When I left the village in 2009 the library was open 4 days per week including Saturdays with full shelves and 5 computers and is thriving. An interesting side to this is that the District Council tried to close the library and then tried unsuccessfully to try and take over the library again in 2011 but were given short change. I think the point of this is really that because Councils can be extremely short sighted and go with the Government flow things can be worked out and flourish. I am uncertain if this could work in schools but if a head teacher has the authority within his/her own school then with will and determination nothing is impossible. What is needed is the support of the school and parents alike. Maybe something to think about as A&B are doubtful in changing their minds however daft the idea is.

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    mike March 16, 2016 9:50 am Reply

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