Monday, 10 January 2011

Public libraries in crisis: it could be worse than you thought My take on the shameless withdrawal of government from supporting public libraries is to keep in mind that our libraries are one of the few things left that consolidate the public realm. Once they're gone, it's not just hard to get the library service back: it will be that much harder to reinstate the notion of publicness. There's a wee map of threatened closures here. The Public library news blog posted this note the other day: There is a devil of a dilemma for those who wish to save libraries after withdrawal has been cut - whether to "help out" or not. Many authorities (such as Gloucestershire) are saying that the local library will only survive if a community group takes it over, with minimal council support. Those who love libraries may quite rightly be tempted to do so. However, if they do before all other options are taken, then it will only encourage yet more branches to be effectively privatised in this ways. Libraries will become just another charity shop. However, the council may well close the library anyway if groups don't step up to the mark. The unwillingness of charities to take over wildlife preserves without full remuneration may be an argument in favour of not helping. Call their bluff and, perhaps, the council will back down. Or perhaps they won't. I recall from attending the Conservative party launch of the Big Society that the abandonment of public libraries was mentioned often but local government not at all.

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