When I lived in the UK, libraries were very popular places. At peak times, you would often have to queue to return books or take more out. In the daytime they would fill up with pensioners and in the evenings with children from school. At weekends, whole families would visit the library to exchange books and read the papers.
From an early age, I would have up to six books at a time from the library, almost exclusively non-fiction covering topics ranging from art and photography to fishing and gardening.
When we first came to Bigastro, the library was situated in the Social Centre. Once the new auditorium was built, the library moved there leaving the existing room vacant for other purposes. The new location was much more pleasant and more convenient and so we might have expected it to thrive.
After school, you do find a handful of teenagers in the library doing their homework and occasionally you find older people at the computers. The rest of the time though, the room remains empty. On those occasion when we have had meetings in the room lasting a couple of hours or so, there was nobody else in the room and seldom did anybody try to come in to interrupt us.
Why might this be I wonder?
It certainly has nothing to do with the extensive collection of books nor the will to promote the resource. The library has consistently won awards over the few years for its efforts to encourage readers. The lady who works in the library is more than helpful. However, I imagine that she must get bored sitting for long periods without a soul in sight. What more can she do short of going out into the street to drag people in.
I recall reading somewhere that Spaniards are not book lovers. This accounts for the fact that there are very few bookshops to be found in towns and only a handful in cities. I’m told that, on average, Spaniards read only one book per year which is almost unbelievable.