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.