And yesterday a group of enraged readers formed a protective cordon round Kensal Green library and chased council workmen intent on bolting the doors for good.
We live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, few of us are without a mobile phone, a flatscreen television and access to computers that a few years ago would have been dismissed as preposterously precocious if they turned up in a science fiction movie, yet we can’t collectively come up with the wherewithall to keep a few public buildings going.
It’s easy to sneer at the likes of Alan Bennett and Tim Lott for championing the apparently cosy world of libraries when hospitals are dying on their feet, day centres and lunch clubs have already gone and, if we could afford the cost of the wood we’d all be going to hell in a handcart. But without people indignant and brave enough to say: “ enough is enough” we are in danger of losing everything that makes life rich, in the broadest sense of the word. We are all used to buying the essentials of life online, and generally that enriches our lives. It saves us time and money, gives us more choice, saves on petrol, and just makes life easier.
The danger is that not only does it save us time and money, but it gets us out of the habit of taking time and trouble over something. Libraries are not just about books, they are about getting the kids out of the house on a rainy Saturday afternoon, teaching them about choice, and patience and responsibility. They are also a way of showing them that you don’t have to spend a fortune, or have sole and permanent ownership over something to have fun.
But perhaps our economy is so damaged, and our values so skewed, that we can’t afford the luxury of sharing things any more. What do you think? Are libraries worth fighting for? Or is it way too late for that? Let me know!