I have just heard of the plans to sell off the library building in my home town of Batley and can only say I am horrified by the threat to this iconic building.
I became a member of Batley library even before I started school at St Mary’s in 1948. I remained a member until I went to Cambridge University in 1962. The library was a critical component in my education, introducing me to aspects of the arts, sciences and literature way beyond what was in the school syllabus.
However, it was not just the contents of the library, the books, paintings and sculptures and the wonderful staff that were important. The building itself was a testament to the values of those who built it and to the notion that there were things of value outside the grime and graft of the mills.
It was and remains a grand space, open to all, something not available to many in the town other than in churches and chapels. It spoke of the value of education not only to provide industry with skilled workers but, unfashionable as it may sound now, for its own sake. It encouraged people to read, listen, learn and think. It opened horizons. It showed us that knowledge was for everyone, whatever their background. It gave an insight into the way humankind operates and, above all, it gave immense and lasting pleasure.
I know local authorities face awful choices in the current economic climate. But the library building can be sold only once. When the receipts from that sale are gone to fund running costs, what do we sell next? And when everything we value is sold into private ownership, where do people go for inspiration?
Our forebears who built the library were making a confident statement to future generations. They knew that not all values could be measured in cash. The mills that funded municipal pride may have closed, but the values underpinning that pride endure.
I owe my own education to my parents and to that generation of far-sighted people. I am horrified to think it may be my generation that sells off our heritage for short-term and private gain.
Batley market place and the buildings around it are a testament to the foresight of those who built it. I find it hard to believe that future generations will thank us for destroying it.
Dr John Connor,
formerly of Dark Lane, Batley