There is a lot of talk about the closure of our Public Libraries and library closures at the moment. I have seen figures of up to 800 closures across the country – a fifth of all libraries. Whatever the final numbers, it appears we are going to see substantial closures happening.
So this has got me thinking about what service the libraries really offer and to whom. Are they a suitable target for cost cutting? I have not used a public library for years. I just don’t seem to have the time to read yet more stuff on top of everything I am already reading from the Internet – like many I suffer from ’information overload’. However my parents (in their mid 80’s) still borrow lots of books each week but do not have (or want) the Internet. Is there a connection here possibly?
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, more than 300 million books were loaned from our libraries last year. That sounds like a lot of books. In fact with a population of some 65million it works out to be over 4.5 books each.
I have heard Libraries classed as part of our heritage, a symbol of our communities. Others have said ‘It’s the only place you can go to without spending money’; ‘It’s local, friendly and classless’. So there seems to be social arguments for them.
With more and more people going online to access, download and order their information, are Libraries really worth saving? Perhaps from the perspective of the book industry, the demise of libraries maybe a good thing. It may well increase sales of books. I can’t see it ‘hurting’ Skoobebooks.
Are libraries using their resources to the full? As a child I remember them as silent mausoleums. Any noise and you were instantly admonished. Perhaps today they should have a Starbucks in them and at least half the space devoted to Internet access with the ability to download music, films, books, listen, watch and play and print. Currently they are almost totally funded from local taxes. Perhaps there is opportunity here to get sponsorship from local business. Open them up to conferences. Start selling products and services. All of this could sit nicely alongside the ‘free’ model.
As usual the knee jerk reaction of an ‘easy cost cutting measure’ from our public servants does not look to be the answer. With over 4000 premises and staff should we not look firstly at how else we can use this valuable resource before we lose it forever?