Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Support your local library and help defeat the forces of ignorance

“What have the Victorians ever done for us?” to mis-quote the Pythons. Well, while they were making an Imperial nuisance of themselves around the world and building dark satanic mills, canals and railways back home, they also recognised the need to provide the means of self-improvement for their people.
From this desire sprung better education, parks, the growth of museums, and the 1850 Public Libraries Act that gave birth to modern lending libraries. 150 and more years later I’m one of the millions still benefiting from that legacy.
Libraries have nurtured me at every stage of my life. Whether novels, plays, or poetry for pleasure, reference books for university essays; books on wedding planning, child-rearing, house buying, writing a will. DVDs, CDs; information about local government, medical services, societies; neighbourhood cultural events – I felt the need to join the nearest library where ever I’ve lived.
Now they are an endangered species vulnerable to the Coalition’s spending cuts.
It is to be hoped communities will unite to defend their libraries when councils respond to slashed budgets by cutting local amenities. But the prospects are grim.
The Public Libraries News website run by Ian Anstice calculates a total of 395 libraries and 45 mobile units are currently under threat or recently closed. The numbers rise each day. Every closure is a victory for the forces of ignorance.
Now that I’m retired visiting a library is a weekly event. There’s a number in my borough and they all have one thing in common – there are too few young people among book borrowers. The only place you’ll find the young is in the study section of the biggest one.
However, I’ve noticed those branches that have abandoned the traditional hushed – and empty – traditional library atmosphere to be re-born as local information centres do have a vibe that has a place in the 21st century.
The library is the ultimate ‘green’ operation recycling as it does information. The movement begun by the Victorians cannot survive without fresh blood. This can only happen with new thinking. If library members depart to the cemetery without being replaced, libraries will fall into the abyss even without a helping hand from the Tories.

1 comment:

  1. I share all your concerns GC, says Jaffa. But in this new IT world, if it can be found on net/web, it will not have to be in book form and public libraries could well disappear in time.

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What do you think? GC