Locking teenagers out of libraries is absurd

With youth provision at an all-time low and most civic buildings closed, wouldn’t you rather young people congregating in a library than setting fires.

Young people have a lot of prejudices. Those aged over 16, can work and pay tax yet don’t have a say where that tax goes because they can’t vote. This prejudice was extended this week where it was revealed that many of our nieces, nephews, cousins, children and grandchildren are being denied access to local libraries across the country.

Young people are berated for not reading enough, yet libraries across the country are taking away the privilege.

Over 100 libraries are using a new automated system to replace their staff – users input a code or swipe a card to gain access to the building, but young people, the most likely age group to use libraries according to a survey by Carnegie UK Trust, have been banned.

I understand that when our local councils are having to deal with very complex issues that libraries are lower down the pecking order but this, thankfully, isn’t the case in Bolton, where all our libraries are staffed from Farnworth to High Street, to Breightmet. So, I refuse to accept that young people, yet again, should bear the brunt, in other areas.

Yes, of course, some young people will use computers to play games, yes some will use it as a social. These buildings, especially in deeply deprived areas like we have in Bolton, are also an escape for young people to get away from turbulent home lives which I relate to that part of my past.

I wasn’t exactly reading ‘War and Peace’, but I went to High Street and Central library with my friends to play on the computers and the staff were more than just facilitators, they were mentors. They gave you a leg up on the journey of discovering books and authors and providing that escape not only from what was going on in my life at that moment but an escape to the life I have pursued in leading Xplode Magazine.

There are far more opportunities to deal with insufficient resources that councils have, and automation is not always the answer. As a charity leader, myself, I know that people are chomping at the bit to volunteer their time and experience – those who are retired – who want to give something back and can be the mentors, those seeking a job, or young people looking for practical experience in a voluntary position.

I am so proud that Xplode Magazine, which is written and created by young people is now in every Bolton library.

Let’s not block, let’s believe in their potential.