Monday, 10 January 2011


Normally, I love reading The Guardian Books but this article was very depressing. The scale of the threatened closures is catastrophic. 
When I was growing up, I camped out in libraries. Keeping up with a six-book-a-week addiction would have been impossible without the public library service ;) You go in - it's warm and dry - and, for a very small fee, if you fill in a request card, they'll track down any published book. They'll even let you borrow it for weeks. Wow!
Kensal Rise Library is an atmospheric Victorian building with chandeliers, parquet floors, old-fashioned bookshelves and hushed voices. It is located near a primary school on a quiet residential street. It was opened in 1900 by Mark Twain. It is going to be closed by Brent Council, despite the protests of the people for whom it is a hub of their community.
Local councils have to make cuts to meet their budgets and libraries are a soft touch. As a result, nearly 400 of Britain’s libraries are already threatened with closure. Some councils have not disclosed their cost cutting plans. 
Conservatively speaking, the final number of library closures could be as many as 800 – a fifth of all libraries.
The people who will be most affected by their council’s decision to close local branches and to provide a centralised service are the vulnerable groups who have less access to transportation – the elderly, the poor and parents with young children.
The situation is replicated nationwide: in north London, Brent council, is closing 50% of their libraries - six out of 12. In Doncaster, 14 of its 26 libraries – many in the poorer areas – have been earmarked for closure. In Somerset the council is discussing the need to close 20 out of 34 libraries. Conwy, north Wales, is aiming to close seven of 12 and Croydon, south London, is to lose five. 
This is an unorthodox approach to raising attainment in literacy.
Ed Vaizey, now the Minister for Culture, as recently as February 2010, roared that library closures were "outrageous and offensive to everyone who ever cared about books and reading." That was when the Labour Party was in power, it is less offensive now. Oxfordshire council, which includes the constituency Mr Vaizey represents, is cutting 20 of its 43 libraries. 

Local authors will be joining readers, librarians and councillors and taking part in quiet, family-friendly demonstrations in a day of action, held on 5 February. Others are planning flashmobs, YouTube videos, and picketing too.
You could show your solidarity, support and show appreciation of your Library service by having a "read-in" in your library too.


  1. Oh my god! It's hitting there too! We have library closures here and it's very hard to take. The New York Times had a story a while back (which I blogged about) cities taking their libraries private which means a private corporation will decide which books people can/should read and it also means, most likely it won't be free very long. It always means the poorest and disenfranchised are affected first. As a child this would have meant terrible things for me too! My family was poor but I was a veracious reader! There was no way I could have purchased enough books to keep up with my habit and while kids today don't read as much as I would hope.. well I would guess the pendulum might swing back. Some hope the ebook will be the new great thing but poor people cannot afford the devices or buying books that way either. I would hold a read in in support but as an employee of the public library I could lose my job...

  2. We should do all we can to change the minds of politicians. If libraries close, they will not re-open, even when the economic environment improves. I am not saying that we should not take a fresh look at how the library system operates - such as a coffee bar linked to the library to bring in income or e-book loans for a 25p fee per 4 weeks (no idea how that might work in practice), but as you rightly say, libraries should be the cornerstone of our literacy strategy. I like the idea of a read in!

  3. Like you I feel sad about this.I spent a major part of my youth in a library.I recall reading National Geographic and "increase your word power" in Reader's Digest when I was eight.Always something thrilling or comforting and a place to go when you had no money.

  4. So sad. I can't stand the thought of libraries closing. They need to improve and get back to the traditional library we all know and love. It's the modernized dumb ones where talking, eating and computer games are allowed that should be closing.

  5. Hi Danette
    It is a shame that the cut-backs are hitting the libraries. My family invested in a set of encyclopaedias and a set of short story compilations - that, and my library card, was enough to make sure I was hooked on reading. I'd hate to think a child growing up with a similar background would miss out. I think the read-ins are about reminding people to value and to use the libraries regularly.

    Hi Dom
    Absolutely! Libraries should be all about Cafe-culture and books - I miss Borders :( Surely they are the places to re-site Post Offices?!

    Hi Kathryn
    My Dad ran our Reader's Digest word quiz - visits to the dentist make me nostalgic :)

    Hi Karen
    The threats of so many library closures is a disgrace.

    In a library there should be a place for everything that encourages a love of literacy. We need to get kids through the door and dazzle them with the most exciting written words - it was what I loved even more than sitting in the window above the radiator and being transported to an alternate reality.