Save our Libraries!

by Richard on January 30, 2011

Public libraries have been a ‘cinderella service’ for too long, and now they’re being taken as a soft target in the present government’s ideological assault on public expenditure. Libraries provide access to information, education and entertainment to many who might otherwise be denied them. They’re places of learning and opportunity that have often been under-valued, especially by those who have no need of them. So I’m very happy about the growing campaign to resist the cuts that are being threatened across the country.

As part of that campaign, Phil Bradley (possibly Britain’s no.1 librarian-on-the-web) has designed some brilliant ‘retro’ posters to drum up support. Great stuff!

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01.31.11 at 3:24 pm

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 01.30.11 at 10:02 pm

Typical liberal tosh. Education - what a crock. Stupidity for a good life, a strong nation. Of course if someone wants to waste their time reading and learning, fine - it’s a free country - but not with my money. I’m a taxpayer.

2

Joel Peterson 01.30.11 at 10:29 pm

I agree. Especially from the viewpoint of an author of a Christian fiction novel.

3

Dave Faulkner 01.30.11 at 10:33 pm

When we moved here to Surrey, we soon discovered the cunning way people were being driven away from libraries (presumably this will be a justification for closures): the prices are double what we paid in Essex. One example: DVDs that were £1.50 to borrow in Essex cost £3 here. So you go to the charity shop or LoveFilm instead.

4

Pam 01.30.11 at 11:14 pm

That female on the poster. Like the attitude!
And I didn’t think Kim earned enough to pay tax.
btw, thanks for that heartfelt apology on “Creating God” Richard, I’m definitely in a better mood today. :)

5

Earl 01.31.11 at 3:05 am

Not familiar with the way public libraries are funded in England. Here in the United States, public libraries are funded through county and state taxes. There are some large cities where hours have been reduced. But that is a matter for local determination. Is it possible that libraries slated for reduction/closure could simply be funded by a local tax?

6

Michael Westmoreland-White 01.31.11 at 6:05 am

The same thing is happening here in the states. Libraries are even more vulnerable here because few of them are under direct federal control. Most are local or state–and 45 of 50 states are flat broke.

In the Great Depression of te 1930s, both the New Dealers and wealthy philanthropists like Dale Carnegie built MORE libraries, but the “privatize everything” ethos will kill us this time around.

7

Richard 01.31.11 at 8:05 am

I’m sorry to hear that, Michael. My impression was that public libraries in the US were much better resourced than here.

8

Tony Buglass 01.31.11 at 9:55 am

Earl: Is it possible that libraries slated for reduction/closure could simply be funded by a local tax?

That’s pretty much what happens here. They are funded by county councils or city councils. However, county and city councils receive a large part of their funding from the central government grant, which is now being drastically cut as the central government uses spending reductions as a the primary tool in cutting the national deficit. Consequently, even though local electorates may have chosen a political leadership which does not support the central government policies, local authorities simply cannot afford to maintain all their services, so libraries, community centres, and the like are among the first to be cut.

The double whammy for many people (especially older folk, or poorer familes who cannot afford their own computers) is that so many services now depend on internet access - libraries provide that access, which is now removed from the reach of many who depend upon it.

There are many other side-effects. When I was a boy in a poor Northern neighbourhood, the public library was a godsend not only for books, but as a public reading room with newspapers and books. People who could not afford to heat their homes all day could meet there, be warm, read, and not be isolated. So many of the vulnerable and poor are losing their lifelines, their links to community.

9

malc 01.31.11 at 1:20 pm

Interestingly, as member of Hampshire and Surrey libraries* I’ve found dvd’s much cheaper (mine are only £1) though only for a week hire (cds are also £1 but for four weeks).
In library news, in Dorset they are handing in 13,000 signatures today so the council has to debate (and therefore delay) the closing of 2/3s of Dorset libraries and a couple of weeks ago a Milton Keynes library was emptied in an attempt to save it. Yep, every item was borrowed.

I love my library and all the fines I pay for late books must make the Christmas party go with a swing (or whatever else they do with late fees… probably buy more books)

* - though you are supposed to be able to use your library card to take books out of any county library in the country

10

Richard 01.31.11 at 1:27 pm

“though you are supposed to be able to use your library card to take books out of any county library in the country”

I didn’t know that.

11

malc 01.31.11 at 2:36 pm

Came into being late 2009 - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8275830.stm

12

Richard 01.31.11 at 3:16 pm

But that’s brilliant! How can I have missed that?

13

Earl 01.31.11 at 3:32 pm

“45 of 50 states are flat broke.” For many states, it is a crisis. For some it will be traumatic. California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, are among several that are facing extreme difficulty. Many other states have been on a spending spree. For all the party is now over. The bill is due. As long as govt. has the power to tax, bills will continue to be paid. Problem is, politicians are loath to jeopardize their “careers.” Happily, the ballot box has recently proven effective in making needed changes at the state and federal level. There will be cuts in spending and changes in tax policy that reflect what voters do with their ballots.

14

Richard 01.31.11 at 3:46 pm

>> “There will be cuts in spending and changes in tax policy that reflect what voters do with their ballots”

And the pain of those cuts will be borne by the poor and the vulnerable, not by those who caused the crisis in the first place. But we digress — this is a thread about cuts to public libraries.

15

Earl 01.31.11 at 3:51 pm

Many funding assumptions are having to be revisited. Dependence upon a more centralized (in our case federal) authority are appearing less attractive as serious decisions must be made as to how tax revenue will be allocated. There are some valued community services that are best funded locally to facilitate local control. The upshot of this perfect storm of taxing and spending is that voters will decide what matters by voting for those representatives who support their priorities. These will be hard choices.

16

Earl 01.31.11 at 4:00 pm

“And the pain of those cuts will be borne by the poor and the vulnerable, not by those who caused the crisis in the first place. But we digress — this is a thread about cuts to public libraries.” Libraries will have to compete for funding. Libraries will have to demonstrate their utility and value to the broad range of voters. Given demographic distributions, the advantage in such advocacy will lie with those who support a strong library system. The structure of that library system will however change. Taking into account the innovations offered by the information revolution, it is conceivable that what will emerge will be a more useful library system.

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