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Libraries Lobby Part 2 of 2 – Lydia Syson

It was good to see lots of authors at the libraries lobby. I spotted @candygourlay and @markthomasjones in the crowd, and also one of our own Hot Key Books authors @LydiaSyson, the author of the forthcoming A WORLD BETWEEN US, a gripping love story set in the Spanish Civil War, inspired by her family history. Lydia agreed to guest post for us about the event:

Libraries are about stories, and dreaming, and travelling without going anywhere, and they’re also about literacy. And without literacy, there can be no political freedom. At the Speak Up for Libraries Rally today the writer Alan Gibbons made the point that libraries are a front line service. As it happens, another passionate speaker’s words had just got me thinking about a different front line: the front line in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-9, when an elected Republican government rightly saw literacy as fundamental to their fight against the Fascist uprising.

‘Leed! Para ser cultos, para ser fuertes, para ser humanos!’ [Read! To be educated, to be strong, to be human!] That was a slogan on one of the propaganda posters which inspired the cover of A WORLD BETWEEN US. Even as the bombs fell on trenches and villages, soldiers and peasants were learning to read for the first time. Franco knew how dangerous literacy was to the Nationalist cause. He didn’t want the poor and dispossessed reading, any more than he wanted women voting. That’s why schoolteachers were targeted, and when villages fell to Franco’s forces, it was often the people who wore spectacles who were shot first. If you wore spectacles, you must be able to read.

In Spain the Fascists won, and the country returned to the dark ages. Women lost their right to vote, and everyone lost the freedom to read, write and learn what they wanted to.

My radical grandmother has inspired me in many ways. When she wasn’t trying to prevent a war, she was campaigning to stop the closure of the library across the road from her. Over thirty years later, it’s still open, at least for three days a week. But if we lose our country’s library services now, we can look forward to a return to the dark ages. So, fellow readers, luchamos. Let’s fight. We can’t let local libraries become history.