I love libraries. Libraries are treasure troves of ideas, information and stories – mind-expanding and magical places to get lost in.

So the news visitors to the county’s libraries have fallen six per cent in the last year is disheartening.

I know, everything is online now, and I certainly take advantage of that too (the fine-avoiding online book renewal service offered by the county council is probably the only reason I can afford to eat these days). But so what?

To walk into a library and see all those stories and that information physically manifested on the shelves in front of you is a far more rewarding experience than trawling through digital directories and waiting for the download bar to fill on the screen of your laptop/tablet/ mobile/ whatever other device may be flavour of the month. Getting children enthused about books needs more than the flickering screen of such devices.

It demands the actual physical experience of visiting a place with crammed bookshelves, of seeking out those colourful children’s tomes and letting them enjoy browsing and choosing for themselves. When we go to town it’s often the highpoint of our visit for my four-year-old, who’d happily stay there for the day, transported to other worlds via the pages of a book.

I still vividly remember using the creaky old library in Straight Bit in Flackwell Heath when I was young, and it contributed vastly to the love of books I still have today. I later graduated to Wycombe Library in its old incarnation in Queen Victoria Road and more recently to the superb one in the Eden Centre, which, although replacing the weatherworn charm of the old site with a slick modern sheen, has plenty to recommend it in its sheer size and quality.

And while it’s all well and good to know exactly what you are after and make a targeted mission to pick up the latest Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel or Stephen King, there is much more pleasure to be had in a simple browse that could unearth some unexpected gems.

Many of my favourite books have been accidentally discovered. Whereas the price of books in a shop might put you off taking the plunge and giving an unknown quantity a try, there is no such fear with a library.

Browsing online just isn’t the same. And, while I admit Kindles and e-readers are useful there is something comforting about having a book to carry around with you that is not at the mercy of battery life or internet connections.

Reading is one of the simplest and most important pleasures we have – nothing can put you in another person’s head and show you the world through their eyes in the way that a book can – and nowhere is this celebrated more than in a library.

It’s true more services are becoming available there, such as internet, but books are their cornerstone and so they should be. Libraries are massively important to our culture, our children’s development and our learning, and it’s sad that not enough people make the most of this rich and free resource. Yes, six per cent isn’t an enormous amount – but if it continues year on year, eventually one of the jewels in the crown of British culture may be lost forever.