Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Closing libraries - a genteel book burning

The meeting of concerned library users at my local town hall last night in Camden, north-west London, was a depressing affair. I expressed my fears about how the Coalition Government’s spending cuts threaten the country’s lending library movement in my January 19th post.
Although yesterday’s event turned on occasion into a protest meeting, it had been called to discuss the alternative ways the council’s library budget could be stripped of more than £1 million. To that end a councillor and two appropriate council administrators were present to answer questions, or, more accurately, apologise for the inevitability of cuts in library branch numbers or opening hours or both once a consultation survey is completed.
Perhaps 400 or so attended – very few looked under 30; I judged most were over 50. If there were any at school or college (ahead of exam time you cannot move for students in library branches), I didn’t see them.
If libraries are to survive they have to find a role which attracts each new generation. But that wasn’t on the agenda last night. The subject of volunteers was.
I hope Tory leader David Cameron has thought through his Big Society idea in other areas because it doesn’t work for libraries. It was clear from the responses of the council panel and branch library employees in the audience that the unpaid volunteers’ route is a blind alley.
1. No one seemed keen to apply including myself.
2. We would require training if we were.
3. We would need police checks to work with children.
4. Drawing up rotas and adhering to them is complicated.
5. Organising volunteers would likely cost more money than it would save.
Several famous authors sent their support. One, Bernard Kops, I think, said closing libraries is a genteel form of book burning. As I said at the beginning altogether a depressing affair.


  1. If a library is closed down, does it eventually gat sold off, into the private sector?

  2. I imagine new use planning consents would be difficult. Mothballing would be the most immediate action according to the councillor. GC


What do you think? GC