After five years work on a book about the British Freaks (told through the person of my great good friend Bob Rowberry), I’m nearly there. Now I’m going through the text filling in the gaps. I’m trying to account for the ‘New Age’, and in particular, I want to answer the question, ‘Why do I know what my rising sign is?’ Put another way, how do we account for the revival in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s of popular astrology? My Mum doesn’t know what her rising sign is. I doubt my daughters do. But lots of people of a certain age can tell you odd astrological details about themselves; or explain tarot, or throw the I-Ching. Even skeptics like myself.
A quick knock about ont Interweb showed me that the best text on the subject is prolly Nicholas Campion’s ‘Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West.‘ Ninety five quid a pop; even the e-version is 75 sovs. A big ask for three or four paragraphs in my book. So, I toddle up to Presteigne Library, and arrange for an inter-library loan. And, five days later, here it is, sent to Presteigne from the British Library for six quid.
Presteigne’s library, like all libraries in Powys, like lots of libraries in the UK, is under threat of closure. People have been campaigning to keep it open. They cite the importance of access to libraries for children, or to internet access for those who don’t have it at home. These are clearly important reasons to keep libraries open. But I want to say a word on behalf of independant scholars and researchers. The fact that I can get an obscure academic publication in less than a week through my local library strikes me as remarkable. One of the great economic and social problems this country faces is the size and power of London. If not an inter-library loan, or forking out the best part of a ton, then I should have to go to the British Library myself; a day out of my life, and almost as much in train fares as buying the book. A local library, and the wonderful system of inter-library loans, means that I can do my work, at home in Mid-Wales. The irresponsible policy of library closures means that if we are not very careful, this will no longer be possible.