A READER has taken me to task.

Last week I was celebrating the rekindling of our love of traditional books.

The correspondent (who asked me to keep her name out of the paper) said she was surprised I hadn’t mentioned libraries.

“It seems strange that you are recommending we go out and buy books when we can borrow or reserve the latest best seller from one of our 11 libraries for free!” she scolded.

“Times are hard for libraries these days so we need to use them more,” she concluded.

Putting aside concerns about how a writer makes a living if we all rely solely on libraries, I do want to pick up on her point this week.

I count my blessings I found the library when I was very young. Neither of my parents were book lovers, but I became a voracious reader very early on. I would trek home with half a dozen tomes tucked under my arm every week. I loved the place so much I took a weekend job there when I was doing my A-levels.

So it angers me when I see cuts to our library services and listen to the politicians talk about dismantling this wonderful, edifying privilege that was bestowed upon us by our forefathers.

Andrew Carnegie, the great library benefactor, must be revolving in his casket.

Before the internet age and freely available information, people who did not have the money to buy books relied on libraries.

Nobody in a civilised, democratic society should be denied access to information. The right information. The information that libraries provide.

Many of our modern cultural figureheads began as working class kids who, without a library card, would never have been exposed to their heritage, the great books of our past.

Author Terry Pratchett says he read pretty much every book in his local library as a boy and learned more there than he did at school.

Fellow novelist Neil Gaiman made the point in a speech last year that there is a correlation between illiteracy and crime. The more literate a society, the more empowered people are and able to empathise with others. One of the sources of empathy is reading, Gaiman suggested.

And he’s right.

Why do we still read Dickens or Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky? It’s because they help us understand ourselves, what it is to be human and how we might make things better in the future.

If libraries can open the door to this kind of knowledge, this sort of insight, then I think we should be crawling over broken glass to preserve them.

Don’t you?