I love libraries. Always have. I could spend all day in a library, working my way through the stock. I even love the weird library smell (what is that? It’s not the smell of books, because bookshops don’t smell like that).
So I was upset to see my local library in Crouch End, London borough of Haringey, featured in a Socialist Worker article about library cuts. Here’s an anonymous Haringey librarian quoted in the piece:
“It’s about deskilling – getting rid of professional librarians. I think this is preparing the ground for privatisation. They want to get casual workers in to do as much as possible.”
Let me get this straight. We can spend £100 billion on a shiny new nuclear submarine that we will never, ever, in any circumstances use. We can spend £8 billion completely fucking up Iraq and Afghanistan. But we have to save a few grand by firing trained librarians and replacing them with a few minimum-wage fifteen-year-olds.
Why can we never afford social services? Our local hospital was bulldozed recently, and it’s not clear if a new one will ever be built. Alexandra Palace just up the hill, “The People’s Palace”, is set to be sold off to a millionaire property developer to be converted into a luxury hotel complex. It seems that everywhere I look, there’s an assault on what is free. As the article points out, libraries are about everyone having access to culture. Free access. The National Health Service, or what’s left of it, is about everyone having access to healthcare. Ally Pally was supposed to be about everyone having access to leisure facilities. Now we’re dismantling everything that’s free, that’s shared by all, and making it private, accessible only to those who can pay the entry fee. And it’s always done in the name of saving money, even though it always ends up being more expensive.
Oh, and to complete the whole hypocritical head-trip, a couple more tidbits. The head of Haringey library who is pushing the cuts was earlier this year awarded the MBE for “services to local government.” And the education minister recently announced that 2008 will be an official “year of reading” … for those who can afford it, presumably.
P.S. Thanks to Library Campaign for the picture.