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Friday, 5 October 2012

Want to borrow a book? Take a pew!

Photo: Bookstore Selexyz Dominicanen, in Maastrich, Netherlands. Originally built in 1294, this unused church was turned into a bookstore in 2007.
With thanks to the Reader's Nook

How would you feel about going to church to borrow a library book?

The idea came to me when I saw this wonderful photo of a disused church in the Netherlands, built in 1294 and converted into a library in 2007.   I'm not suggesting we convert our churches, of course,  just make use of them on the days they are empty.

All over Great Britain we have beautiful old churches of all denominations with dwindling congregations and dwindling revenue to match. Meanwhile, local authorities are struggling to keep open our local libraries, many of which are often the central point of the community. Churches need funding and libraries need a place to go - so why couldn't the two work together to their mutual benefit? Before anyone suggests I'm being sacrilegious, I assure you I am not. Quite the opposite in fact.  Isn't it time more people got to see the inside of some of our country's historic buildings before they are closed forever?  Isn't there a correlation between great architecture and great literature?

The idea would work particularly well in rural areas where community services are constantly being pruned or stopped altogether.  An area of the church could be dedicated to books at certain times of the week with the provision, maybe, of coffee and a warm place to chat.  Methodist churches regularly invite the congregation to coffee and cakes after  the morning service - so perhaps it's a short step to include books too?

The once-popular Borders book chain  went into administration in 2009, partly due to competition from the internet. Today the sales of e-books are, in some cases, overtaking their paper counterparts. I am all for progress and regularly use my kindle, but the truth is that we will always have a place for 'real' books, even if only as a  reminder of our glorious heritage.


Nikki-ann said...

Wow, I love that church/library!!! We have a recently disused church in the local town that has been for sale for a few years now... If I win the lottery, I know exactly what I'm going to do now! :)

Guernsey Girl said...

Thanks Nikki-ann. Come to think of it, your church could also be used as a community centre - it just needs someone with a lot of money and a generous heart...

Gloria Horsehound said...

I'd feel very content browsing the shelves. My local library lacks character, doesn't make me want to get comfortable with an armful of books. However put me in the church library and I'd never come out.