Just A Summary

Piers Cawley Practices Punditry

Save Our Libraries

So, on Saturday, the opening line, and pretty much the entire tune, of a song banged on my head as we went to our local Library to fill our boots with books and generally get with the “Save our Libraries” message. Here it is. Sing it out. Sing it loud.

Child of the Library by pdcawley

A Child of the Library

I’m a Child of the Lib’ry, it made me who I am,
It taught me about freedom and the fellowship of Man
A sea of story waits for you behind the lib’ry door,
Don’t say we can’t afford them any more.

The Lib’ry’s where I made some friends I’ve known my whole life through
The Walkers and the Blacketts and the Pevensies so true.
Simp the canine cannonball, Galadriel the fair.
The daughter of a pirate king and Paddington the Bear

I’ve travelled South with Shackleton and all his gallant crew
And to the African interior that Mary Kingsley knew
I’ve rode the trackless prairie where the bison used to roam
An travelled round the Universe, not half an hour from home.

And as I grew the libr’y fed my curiosity,
All there for the asking. All of it for free.
It’s there I found the stories that I couldn’t find at home.
It’s where I learned I was myself and not my father’s clone.

So make friends with your library, don’t let it fade away.
Teach your kids the lib’ry’s where you go on Saturday.
Don’t let the bastards tell you they will cost to much to save
While they’re shovelling our taxes down the hole the bankers made

So make a stand for the lib’ry. Stand up while you can.
Stand up for your freedom. Stand for your fellow man.
Ignorance is never bliss, don’t close the lib’ry door.
For a lib’ry lost is lost forever more.

Lyrics © 2011 Piers and Gill Cawley
Music © 2011 Piers Cawley

Licenced under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA License.

Anyone who sings this is a friend of ours.

Notes and Updates

Mike Whitaker has worked out a set of chords for this, if you’re happier singing with a guitar. Frankly, instrumentation scares me, I’m much happier singing unaccompanied but I realise I’m in a minority on this.

When you sing it, try making the song your own by changing things to suit your own. Julie Chilton’s posted an alternate first verse in the comments, but the world is the mollusc of your choice.

The ‘I’ in the song, isn’t quite me and it isn’t quite Gill either. Most importantly, both of us grew up in houses where no book was out of bounds. Our fathers used to take us to our respective local libraries (Lewisham for Gill, Doncaster Central and then Bawtry for me) every week or so on a Saturday morning. As soon as I was old enough, I’d ride my bike from our home in Scrooby to Bawtry with a carrier full of books hanging off the handlebars. Bawtry is currently in the crosshairs of Doncaster’s idiot mayor – the bloke who suggested getting kindles for everyone instead – along with 13 other libraries in the district.

There’s a revised version of the recording with additional notes at: http://www.bofh.org.uk/2011/04/04/a-child-of-the-library-revised, or just press play:

Child Of The Library (Revised) by pdcawley

August 9th 2011

I’ve updated the lyrics here to reflect what I sing now. A few of the clumsier bits have been fixed. Hopefully there will be video from my performance at OSCON 2011, which has the ‘right’ lyrics.

Published on Wed, 09 Feb 2011 02:50:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under . Tags , , , , ,

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  • Gravatar

    By Dave Weingart Tue, 08 Feb 2011 15:58:09 GMT

    This is brilliant. May I spread this far and wide?

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    By Piers Cawley Tue, 08 Feb 2011 16:45:37 GMT

    Please do. And feel free to adjust it to fit.

    If you don’t know who the Walkers, Blacketts, Pevensies or Simp are, then I wish you joy in the discovery of them, but feel free to make your verse about James Bond, Kimball Kinnison, Harry Potter, Berry and Co, the Bastables or whoever rocked your boat when you discovered you had a boat to rock.

    The same goes for anyone else thinking of having a crack at this – knock yourself out.

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    By julie.chilton@yahoo.com Tue, 08 Feb 2011 18:27:13 GMT

    This is FANTASTIC. I will definitely be singing it…do you have chords?

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    By Heather Mihalovits Tue, 08 Feb 2011 18:28:35 GMT

    Thank you, this song is beautiful. It brings tears of joy and sorrow to my eyes.

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    By julie.chilton@yahoo.com Tue, 08 Feb 2011 18:45:02 GMT

    I adapted the first verse to fit me…
    The Lib’ry’s where I made some friends I’ve known my whole life through
Mary Lenox and Meg Murry and the Pevensies so true.

    Mr. Toad and all his friends, Galadriel the fair.
Heidi, Pippi Longstocking and Paddington the Bear

  • Gravatar

    By Piers Cawley Wed, 09 Feb 2011 01:17:45 GMT

    No chords yet, Julie. It’s probably a three chord trick of some kind though. A friend, who managed a passable accompaniment on the fly the first time I sang it out, is working on something though.

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    By Mike Whitaker Wed, 09 Feb 2011 03:04:13 GMT

    Chords to follow this evening: I really wasn’t awake enough last night.

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    By Chris C Wed, 09 Feb 2011 13:00:33 GMT

    Now that’s a protest song in the old style, a worthy successor. And I love the encouragement to change it to fit, so that it lives. Well done!

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    By whitesusan08@yahoo.co.uk Wed, 09 Feb 2011 16:26:10 GMT

    This says all I feel about libraries. I remember meeting the Swallows and Amazons too, in that magical place – the local library at Aspull. Thank you so much

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    By janet Parker jandiparker@hotmail.co.uk Thu, 10 Feb 2011 04:07:14 GMT

    This is brilliant. I’m forwarding it to Unison. Hopefully lots of people will sing it at the rally on March 26th!

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    By Tash Thu, 10 Feb 2011 04:07:59 GMT

    Perfect! It made me cry… I would like to use it in a presentation I have to do for next week about the current situation in libraries in Derbyshire for the Children’s Centre.

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    By Piers Cawley Thu, 10 Feb 2011 05:33:59 GMT

    Wow Janet! That’d be something to hear.

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    By Piers Cawley Thu, 10 Feb 2011 05:35:28 GMT

    Tash: Yes, of course. Go for it.

    I have to say that both Gill and I got some serious lumps in our throats as we wrote the first couple of verses. Took a while to get to the point where I could sing some bits without choking up.

  • Gravatar

    By Mike Whitaker Fri, 11 Feb 2011 03:52:20 GMT

    Chords in G – although Piers sings it in Eb

    C G C G
    C G Am D
    C G C G
    C D G

    ‘A’ verse (“The library’s where I made…”)
    C G C G
    C G Am D
    C G C G
    C G CD G

    ‘B’ verse (“I’ve travelled south”)
    Em G C D
    C G Am D
    C G C G
    C G CD G

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    By philipbradley@gmail.com Fri, 11 Feb 2011 04:30:55 GMT

    This is marvellous. A very good tune, excellent lyrics. Now tweeted out to several hundred librarians around the world. :)

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    By Jonathan Stowe Fri, 11 Feb 2011 08:27:29 GMT

    I had an idea. I don’t know whether it will result in anything but it will be interesting to see if there are any techno/indie/hip-hop/etc versions made. Hope you don’t mind :)

    Thanks for making this and sharing it with us.

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    By Suzanne Burge Fri, 11 Feb 2011 08:46:08 GMT

    This is wonderful, and expresses just what I feel. Thank you

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    By Charmaine Morgan Fri, 11 Feb 2011 22:18:32 GMT

    Ab fab. Love it.

    I think I will put this on my Facebook site and mention in an article I am writing on the library cuts.

    Well done… both of you – Piers and Mike

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    By Janet Wright Mon, 14 Feb 2011 16:34:22 GMT

    This was sent on to me by a fellow supporter of St James Street Library Campaign in Walthamstow, and I’m sending it out to our hundred-plus supporters. May it travel round the world! and shame our politicians into preserving a cornerstone of civilisation.

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    By Video Tue, 15 Feb 2011 05:01:36 GMT

    Piers sang this at Walthamstow folk club on Sunday – video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VwZk8DMWTOA

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    By Sara Thomas Thu, 24 Feb 2011 13:32:14 GMT

    Thank you for this beautifully insightful melody. I’m so happy to know there are people like you that love and cherish libraries and their memories as much as I do! Cheers!

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    By Joanne Sun, 06 Mar 2011 17:02:43 GMT


    I came to your site via Jon Boden’s Folk Song A Day website – my other half and I were at the Oxford Remnant Kings gig and heard you sing A Child Of The Library afterwards. Great stuff.

    Just wondered if you were aware of this:

    A 9 year old girl called Jessica recently wrote an article in First News, a newspaper for children, about library closures. Here’s what she wrote:

    “Books are special. You can read amazing stories and learn about history and different places in the world. I use two libraries to help me with my homework and both are being shut down. I hope you understand that you are making a big mistake.”

    Roy Clare, head of the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council reacted to this piece as “..froth without substance. After all, when tearful teenagers wrote to the PM about the break up of Take That more than a decade ago, No 10 couldn’t fix that either.”

    Hmmm. A child pointing out that library closures will damage her education and reduce her chances of increasing her awareness of the world around her doesn’t sound like ‘froth without substance’ to me.

    The MLA, of which Mr Clare is head, says this about libraries:

    “Public libraries make a measurable and substantial contribution to local economies, and help to bridge social divides. They support well-being, encourage reading, spread knowledge, contribute to learning and skills and help to foster identity, community and a sense of place for people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures.

    “They provide a unique resource for informal learners and support formal learning throughout people’s lives. They are centres of creativity opening up a rich world of inspirational works by great writers and artists.”

    But apparently, when a nine-year-old says almost exactly the same thing but in simpler (and more powerful) terms, that’s “froth without substance”.

    If you are concerned that the head of the organisation which is supposed to be championing libraries is a) a man who would sneer at a nine-year-old with genuine and valid concerns about her education and b) apparently believes that the closure of libraries will have no more effect on a child’s life than the break-up of a pop group, please do email him and tell him at roy.clare@mla.gov.uk.

    I’m not suggesting that anyone harasses the bloke, but an email to request a clarification on the MLA’s website of its position on library closures and an assurance that the MLA does not intend to affect this sneering attitude in response to public concerns might not go amiss.


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    By diane-roderick@hotmail.co.uk Sun, 20 Mar 2011 11:18:44 GMT

    LIKE THE SONG . ITS SO SAD THAT SMALL LIBRARYS Have to go why? i grow up with fforestfach library .
    what are the people going to do that are on low income they cant aford to go to the big library/s or buy books that is what a library is for soeveryone can have a good read .
    the library might be thf only place for the old to go and met a friendy face.

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    By michellehepworth@hotmail.com Tue, 22 Mar 2011 13:04:23 GMT

    I heard you sing this at Kings Place. It’s brilliant. Am teaching it to my folk choir tonight and hopefully to my teacher colleagues as we march on Saturday.
    Thank you.

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