Friday 11 December 2015

But With A Whimper

We are losing our libraries.

dream libraryInch by inch, building by building, government cut by government cut, we are losing the buildings at the heart of our communities - the places where we can invest in our present and our futures, regardless of background or income. The magical rooms filled with books.

(Beware, political opinions ahead.)

Of course, I cannot speak for other countries. But in the UK, the place where the problem lies is pretty obvious to me - the Tory government.

Yes, libraries are run by local authorities (councils) and with local authority money, but the cuts that councils have to make are dictated by the trickling-down of funds (or, in this case, cuts,) from Westminster.

Yes, that goes for Wales too - how is the Welsh Assembly supposed to give councils enough money, when they themselves are woefully underfunded?

The list of collateral library casualties to the war on the welfare state is frighteningly large.

Each one of these is not just a library - it's a kid who'll never know the joy of a room of books, a grandmother who can't manage the trip to the next town for a cup of tea and a chat somewhere warm and inexpensive, an unemployed single mother who can't afford internet access to apply for jobs, and her child who can't get the information needed for a homework assignment.

Every blow to our libraries is a blow to ourselves.

In some ways, we can't blame the Conservatives - how could a cartel of spoilt little rich boys ever understand that there are people who can't afford a world-class education, who struggle to buy the books they need for school, and who value a safe, warm, place to do some homework, have a chat, apply for jobs... how could they understand that?

We can't let them take our future.

It's hard to prioritise libraries when people are struggling to feed themselves, or pay the bills, or the rent. But in ignoring each building as it slowly slips away, we are letting the world split itself into the haves and the have-nots.

We need places like libraries: for community, for education, for the equality that only a free public resource can bring. We need libraries for the hope that they bring.

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