In her article without libraries, we will lose a mark of our civilisation journalist Catherine Bennett of The Observer reports on how the Government is turning a blind eye to the closure of 250 (and counting!) libraries nationwide. She particularly focuses on Gloucestershire County Council, naming and shaming Cllr Hawthorne’s extreme plans.
“In Gloucestershire, where a scattered population depends heavily on small libraries, the Conservative leader, Mark Hawthorne, has constructed a model of democratic destruction. Rural taxpayers will lose all seven mobile libraries at the same time that the council, using one ruse or another, condemns a further 18 libraries out of the existing 43; this amounts to 43% cuts in libraries, against a general, council target of 28%. One compensation, the council tells residents, will be a “24/7 virtual library service” – a boon to all the regular users who, like huge numbers nationally, rely on libraries and their staff to get online”
She calls Hawthorne’s plans “an experiment” and they are. His comparison of these plans to the so called “successes in Buckinghamshire” is deceptive and dishonest. Buckinghamshire’s “volunteer” run libraries are still heavily supported by the central library services whereas Hawthorne is abandoning our libraries, many of them in our least affluent areas, to go it entirely alone. There is no precedent for this.
“11 of Gloucestershire’s discarded libraries, one of which attracts 177,000 visits a year, are to be offered to volunteers at peppercorn rents, the suggestion being that if people really care about a library, even in a disadvantaged area, they will run and fund it themselves.”
In response to Hawthorne’s claim that people are “excited” about running their own libraries and working for free to provide a service the council should legally be doing themselves, Catherine Bennett goes on to mention us, the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, saying
“In another model example of the big society at work, his proposal is furiously opposed by an existing community group, Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries. This is not merely because they want librarians who have been trained to run libraries, a job that involves helping other citizens input highly personal information into computers as well as recommending and ordering books, supporting literacy, hosting community groups, storytelling, helping with homework, dealing with the lonely, needy or difficult individuals who rely on the places in ways that vast chunks of the supposedly squeezed middle, as well as prosperous county councillors, will never know.”
Yes! we could not have put it better ourselves. Get in the real world Hawthorne and Noble and hang your heads. The national press are listening to us, when will you?