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Opinion: Nik Butler, @loudmouthman

There is a rhythm to the Saturday morning routines in the house of Butler. The breakfasts, the cartoons, the review of a weekend’s priorities and then, with some effort and a few false starts, the eventual journey into the day.

At least once a month there is the additional hunt for books currently on loan and for the bag in which to carry them. It is a comfortable routine, an enjoyable routine and it is a privileged routine living as we do in this community. Much of the joy comes from earlier childhood access to the town library. When I was my daughter’s age, the internet was called books, the library was my Google and the yards of shelves were my PlayStation.

The privilege to have access to a wealth of written word replacing the need for personal shelving, or finance, is one barely recognised by many and likely underutilised by all. But it is that utilisation which West Sussex County Council seeks to focus on through an online survey, which can be accessed through http://bit.ly/wscclib

I would assume that like many surveys it tends towards a self-selecting bias, in that those interested in the libraries are more likely to answer questions about libraries. Worse though is that it is almost hidden, despite previously published articles trying to highlight its presence.

The questions begin with an interest in the ownership of smart phones, e-readers and internet access. It is not until halfway through that it asks if I am a current library user or asks the most important question: “How important do you think public libraries are as a service to the community?”

The correct answer is “libraries are essential”. We may have let National Library Day slip by (it was February 4), but we have the opportunity to respond to a survey and to explain how our libraries provide the foundation access to information, to learning and to knowledge. They are a places to meet as a community or meditate as an individual.

We should not wonder how to make libraries relevant in the modern age, we should be striving to make them more available for every age. Before it expires, visit the link and let West Sussex County Council know that access and availability of knowledge is always relevant.

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