Leave aside the budget cuts for now. We are all aware that there is a systematic culling of UK libraries wherever local governments can get away with it, and surviving library casualties placed through the mangle have had their opening times slashed.
Our cultural services are guilty of a kind of sacrilege and libraries have been left bleeding, with volunteers brought in to dress the wounds. The Sunday opening of libraries is never going to happen. The money isn’t there.
But I’m confused as to why libraries weren’t open on a Sunday in the first place? Before the Sunday trading laws were relaxed trading was not generally permitted until 1994 – Sundays had a heavier religious leaning and roughly consisted of worship (of some sort), family activities, Sunday lunch, reading the newspapers, and preparations for Monday – study, homework, work. There was the occasional visit to a Sunday market holding a special licence and a pop down to the local non-Christian practicing corner shop for a pint of milk.
Sunday was seen as a day of quiet contemplation, reflection, a day of connection, study, and understanding. How did the library not fit into this framework? You could hardly call them Sunday traders.
Even if not of a religious leaning, the concept of having a day of rest is attractive to many people. Libraries opening on a Sunday missed its optimum moment decades ago to nurture a culture of visiting libraries on a Sunday when many people could do it and while the birth of the commercial internet was still in its Babygro.
Still, why can’t a person visit a library on a Sunday to just relax, study a selection of newspapers or magazines? Why can’t a student or a writer head to a library where there may be fewer distractions than at home to study or write?
Why can’t A. Reader walk into a library on a Sunday, select a book off a shelf and sit down and have a jolly good read?
There are an awful lot of lonely people who are deeply isolated and Sundays can be the hardest. They desire some human contact if not in a conversation. Communal reading can be medicinal.
Libraries should have the same respect and status as a church or a place of worship.