Saskia Murphy says
the dog really did
eat her homework

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This column started as a discourse of despair over Brexit. I spent two hours poring over the latest developments from Westminster and wrote a few depressing paragraphs about how doomed we all are and how much politicians have failed us.

Distracted by Brexit I had failed to notice my seven-month-old beagle puppy was suspiciously silent for an unprecedented amount of time. Realising, I thought she must happily be playing with one of the many toys I have lovingly collected for her, but as I walked towards the sofa where she was so angelically lounging I realised to my horror that she was destroying my laptop charger, which I’d clumsily left unplugged on the floor.

To Bessie’s credit she’d managed a clean cut, decapitating the end of the charger entirely. After six years of loyal service it was time for my charger to go to the digital graveyard. It was a lost cause.

As a freelance journalist, my laptop and its accessories are the lifeblood of my work. I can’t do much without them. And of course Bessie discovered her penchant for said items on the worst day of all – deadline day.

With a mere 12 per cent power left and two features to write, I rushed to a retail park and frantically ran around looking for a charger. Of course I couldn’t find one. I’d wasted almost two hours of precious self-employed time for nothing.

By this point I was getting palpitations thinking about all the words I still had to write, the phone calls I had to make, the bills that would go unpaid if I couldn’t get to a computer ASAP.

I drove to an internet café that had its shutters down, I replied to emails on my phone, I cancelled plans with a friend for that evening. The day had officially been derailed.

Finally pulling up outside my local library, something that felt like relief set in. Within a matter of minutes I was logged on, my notepad in front of me.

Long story short, everything worked out fine. I just about managed to meet the deadlines. My bills won’t go unpaid, I haven’t been blacklisted by anyone. All fine.

But I was lucky. Not everyone has the privilege of having a library on their doorstep. The most recent survey of British libraries by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) revealed a total of 127 libraries were closed last year in England, Scotland and Wales, while 712 full-time employees lost or left their jobs and volunteer numbers increased by 3,000,
to 51,394.

Like too many public services, cuts have hit libraries hard. In 2010, estimates from Public Libraries News suggest there were only around 10 libraries in the hands of volunteers. By 2017, the figure had risen to around 500.

Libraries are in trouble, but they are vital. For people who don’t have access to computers at home they provide a gateway to jobs, for children from low income families libraries are the place where they can read their favourite books over and over again without their parents having to spend a penny. Libraries are there for all of us.
I wouldn’t have got through my calamitous day without mine.

So go to your local library. Sit at one of the desks and read a paper. Borrow a book by an author you’ve never heard of. Show the government how much we need them. You never know when your library might save the day.

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