I've been a little bit side tracked of late with events in our village which is slightly off the point of Portfolio Oomph but the more I think about it, the more I believe it's all related – library research.
We have a great little library in the village that we frequent each week with our daughter, sometimes twice weekly for her to exchange her books, chat to the librarians and meet up with other little people who she goes to nursery with. She really loves the library and now they have a coffee making machine that has hot chocolate it really is her favourite place!!
However, we have problems ahead in that the high school that she is in the catchment area for is planning to be redeveloped by Midlothian Council and this will mean that all the community facilities in our village, including the library, sports centre, swimming pool and community learning centre will all be closed and moved to this new school Hub. Their aim is to improve the facilities in this Hub and to provide a state of the art school and community facility.
So, what is the problem you might ask? This is great for the school and great for the kids of high school age, however the new school campus will be located out of village centre in Mayfield/Easthouses, leaving no community resources what so ever. I don't know how much you know about Newtongrange but in the 1980s when all the coal mines were closed Newtongrange was struck hard by this and became the subject of a BBC documentary, 'The Village that No-one Wants'. Newtongrange fought hard to survive this time and has developed into a great little community where lots of young families are now moving to because of the community atmosphere and community facilities within easy reach of Edinburgh. These closures will be the most significant issue that has affected Newtongrange since the coal mines closed and we are all campaigning hard to keep our library and other facilities local.
I have found myself in the position of being the Chairperson of the Newtongrange Library Action Group having started a petition and a Facebook page some weeks ago to gather support to keep the library in its current location. I believe that education, reading and being open to new perspectives and igniting your imagination in life starts young. A creative education is only possible through engaging in library research through resources such as books, journals and the internet, alongside good classroom practical activity. Books, journals and newspapers, including art books, were the main nutrition during my days at art college and why this should be different for anyone else I don't know.
If we remove our library from the village which is serving our pre-schoolers, primary school children in particular (also everyone else in the community including the elderly) then we are setting our young people up for problems with literacy, isolating our elderly and affecting social issues in the community.
It also concerns me that our daughter will be in the catchment area for a school that currently has well above average rates of unemployment for school leavers. You could argue that it needs a great new school to start to make changes, however I don't believe that just making a state of the art school will automatically bring about improvements. I believe that we need to ensure our kids get a great a start in life and this means starting literacy young, being exposed to books and a world that encourages their imagination and inquiring minds – what better place for this than a library?
I have visited Midlothian Council's petition committee with our petition as it stands now over 2200 signatures. You can download the paper that I presented here and I encourage you to sign our petition if you can do please. We have support from MSPs, MPs, MEPs, some of our local Councillors and Scottish writers Irvine Welsh and Janice Galloway.
Lets encourage our young people to imagine, read, create things from their wildest dreams, to express themselves how they wish – this is enabled by good community facilities.