Library cuts

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.

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There are 3 comments

  1. Grrrr…this post makes me mad!!

    I love libraries too, always have. As a kid libraries seemed to me a place of sanctuary.

    Our public libraries here seem safe – for now. The thought of privatised libraries makes me shudder.

    There are some things that should not be forced to make a profit, for the good of the community. Newspapers. Universities. Libraries. Health providers.

    The university I studied at this year cut its library’s funding by 20 percent. Can you believe that?! A university library – the heart of the university, the repository of its knowledge – having its funding cut by one-fifth.

    PS. How do you know what Aotearoa is?? Are you a New Zealander?

  2. I agree on the sanctuary part. And another thing I forgot to mention about libraries is that they have exposed me to writers and ideas I never knew I was interested in.

    Even though I can now afford to buy books, I’m still only likely to shell out £10 or £15 for something I’m pretty sure I’ll like, i.e. something similar to what I’ve read before.

    From a library, on the other hand, I often borrow books by writers I’ve never heard of on subjects I know nothing about. They allow me to try new things in the knowledge that if I hate the book in question (which frequently happens, and indeed has with my current borrowing, “Naked Lunch” by William Burroughs), at least it hasn’t cost me anything.

    The notion of the “good of the community” is so important, and yet over here it seems under threat at every turn. Our politicians only seem to consider the good of the market, and assume that this will automatically translate into the good of the community (or perhaps they don’t assume this, and don’t care). Glad to hear your libraries are safe for now, anyway, although the cuts at the university are scary. 20% is pretty huge, and is bound to affect either their ability to keep the stock up-to-date or the level of service they can provide.

    As for Aotearoa, I’ve just seen that name cropping up more and more in magazines and the like, either instead of or as well as New Zealand. Was never really sure exactly what the status is, though – is the name officially changing, like Bombay became Mumbai? Or is it down to people’s preferences?

  3. Aotearoa is a Maori name, it’s used mostly by Maori and lefties. It means “long white cloud”.

    I think the name will officially be changed to Aotearoa at some distant point in the future but for now – there are too many rednecks here, alas.

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