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Official Launch Party - Saturday 21 April 2012

'MURDER - Not in Midsomer, but in Long Crendon. Not the murder of a human being, but the planned murder of the library, and but for the intervention of many good-hearted and horrified individuals, it would have happened.'

At the official launch party of the Long Crendon Community Library, on Saturday 21 April 2012, local author and CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Margaret Yorke, opened her controversial speech with the above words. Over a hundred villagers, including many of the volunteers who will be running the library from now on, listened intently, nodding in agreement. Ripples of applause and polite cries of "hear hear" punctuated her speech as she stressed the importance of libraries to local communities and to the nation's literacy. She continued: 

'The closing of libraries all over the country is an act of vandalism, an attack on literacy, and a deterrent to future 'Matildas" denied the serendipitous discovery of the enchantment of books. It is vital that school libraries should be funded and maintained to a high standard and it is facile to say that information can be obtained on-line. So it can, but where is the joy that is found in handling actual books, in browsing along a shelf and finding by chance one that lures you into its pages, so that you discover a new author, or a new interest?'

Ms Yorke went on to argue that although public authorities have attacked book funds for many years as an easy way to cut budgets, yet administrative and bureaucratic costs far exceed money spent on actual books. 'You can't have a library without books,' she said. 'For a long time now, I have campaigned to keep books in libraries.' 

She referred back to earlier campaigns in which she'd been involved, citing a one-time ban on reserving 'non-educational' fiction. The notion that books were supposed to be instructive, she told us, meant that for quite some time library users couldn't request Dickens, Jane Austen, Thackeray, or the Brontes. On another occasion, the library service stopped buying new fiction altogether, with the result that stocks of contemporary fiction, including books by writers such as the celebrated Iris Murdoch, fell behind. 'That lasted a year,' she told us. 'It was an interesting and instructive contest!' 

In the midst of a speech decrying the closure of many of Buckinghamshire's libraries, she took a moment to pay tribute to John Bercow, MP, also present at the launch party, whom she said had always been 'a stalwart supporter of the library service.' 

She concluded by paying tribute to the library committee and its team of volunteers for working hard to keep the library open. 'Fortunately,' she said, 'Long Crendon is a large village and enough good people have come forward with the energy and dedication to achieve what we celebrate today. It is a good day. The plans are exciting and we must hope that as the council withdraws the support it is promising - which in time seems inevitable - there will be a steady flow of new volunteers to succeed any who retire. And that a satisfactory funding arrangement will be made.' 

'I personally see nothing against making a small charge of loans, but that might require an amendment to the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964,  which in any case has been flouted by the closures. There could be exceptions for children and other special cases. 

'Finally, I must thank Sheila and Candy for all their dedicated and wonderful work over so many years. Best wishes to them and to the future of the new community library.'

Ms Yorke was then invited, by committee chair Isabelle Warner, to cut a ribbon and be the first person, officially, to enter the community owned library. When the formalities were over, the party guests enjoyed wine and hot dogs, tea and cakes, and took time to browse the splendid collection of new books available at the library.