06 April 2011

Ever actually been to a library?

There's been a lot of talk about how libraries will be having to close due to cuts (which, by the way, has more to do with local councils deciding to cut certain services over other savings because it's politically expedient) but I really do have to ask, when did you last go into a library?

I ask because I recently started using my local public library in my quest to read more classics, I am a fan of books and wish for there to be free public access to them

However, having actually been to a few I soon realised they are little more than hang-outs for deadbeats, the elderly and stay at home mums which provide more CDs, newspapers and magazines than actual books

In fact, I estimated that roughly an eighth of the building was dedicated to fiction, while the reference section was about as much use as a chocolate teapot

I don't know about you, but when I envisage saving the libraries I picture people perusing shelves crammed with literature, not an old woman saying how she just got the Lady Gaga CD to provide for her granddaughter to burn onto her computer

I think few people realise how bad public libraries are - I am not of course referring to great institutions such as the British Library, the Magdalene Library, or any decent university library (mine was top notch), which no doubt educated people regard fondly, but real local libraries which no doubt educated people never bother visiting because books are so damn cheap anyway

Because the truth is they are drab, underused buildings which can barely be placed in the same bracket with real libraries - no doubt they provide books to some people, but clearly it is very few and it seems to me that we have passed the age where we need to provide literature to the masses through poorly stocked local book houses, my local Tesco probably sells more Jordan autobiographies than the total number of books the library lends, likewise the internet is all but eliminating the need for reference material (and thank god because I pity anyone who is forced to rely on even a city library)

This may sound cruel, and to be honest, I would have thought so too a few weeks ago but having witnessed it first hand I have to conclude they are an outdated model - I still want to provide literature to the masses for free, but the model no longer fits - if you were to invent the concept today, you would not take a large building and stick a few rows of books in it, you would utilise the internet, or even mail-order, mobile libraries are probably more effective

There is of course, another argument for them - the community aspect, libraries provide one of the very few places poorer people in particular can attend classes...or where old people can spend their days communally reading newspapers

But could we not find a way to provide these services whilst getting rid of the books? It would mean smaller buildings and less staff, and I can't believe they even cost a lot now, so surely a 'community centre' would be very cheap

So yeah, cut the 'libraries' - frankly they are an embarrassment to the word and pretty much useless as a provider of books

I appreciate that this is a difficult concept to swallow, I would simply ask that you go and walk into your local town or city library and take a look - see how little use they are getting, how much space they are wasting and of how much use they are to your reading needs

I don't wish to close them per se, I just want to make a relevant service for this century

1 comment:

  1. Tiz true. The only time I've frequented my local library recently, is the two years (almost) when I was out of work.

    And although I enjoyed reading "The Times" newspaper, borrowing books that I wouldn't otherwise buy or read and using the "Peoples Network" Internet connection to update my blog, I certainly didn't think the library should be renting CD's, DVD's and so on.

    There are commercially operated video libraries for that sort of thing....