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Thursday, 7 May 2015

‘Close libraries!’

That was the heading for a very brief report in a local paper that stated entrepreneur Annemarie van Gaal ‘says libraries across The Netherlands should be closed as they cost over 600m euros annually, and book-lending has become a marginalised activity due to the wealth of information to be found online.’

That’s the danger of condensed news, it misses out so much.  The actual article is here:

So the vital conditional is missing – ‘or made relevant again.’ She agrees that ‘… libraries have a social function. Making them free up to 18 gives every citizen, rich or poor, an opportunity to borrow books and use WiFi internet access, something which may not be available at home.’ That social function is important.
This brings to mind a modern phrase that seems pertinent: ‘Use it or lose it.’

Most of us probably tend to take for granted the existence of our town libraries – at least until they’re transformed into ‘information centres’ or threatened with closure.

In the old days – the 1920s and 1930s, many a self-made man (and woman) spent hours in the library in order to improve their lot. They understood that education – and knowledge – is power. Granted, much of that information is now available a mouse-click away. Though the source perhaps needs double-checking; and that was true of the printed word, too. Received wisdom was not always correct. But the inescapable fact was that libraries liberated young minds, and still can do so.

The demand on the town or city’s purse grows every year; yet they never seem to economise with smaller offices or make do with older furniture, I notice, but they do seem to want to make cuts, whatever the political affiliation. And repeatedly in their sights is the local library.

Be vigilant, fight for your library.

Many an author has written a dedication to his or her librarians. Here is but one, from my own library, slightly shortened:

‘During the 1930s and 1940s anyone writing science fiction did so almost exclusively for magazines. Then in the early 1950s the magazine market began to die and paperback books took over. But the paperback books were on the stand one week and gone the next.By the time an author’s newest book came out his older books had disappeared… a few of us could afford to be full-time writers of science fiction, and that was possible only because libraries continued to be the only real market for hardcover science fiction. The libraries bought these books on a regular basis, shelved them, and made them continuously available to readers; and in this way libraries kept both science fiction and those of us who wrote it, alive. To librarians everywhere, this book is dedicated.’ – Gordon R Dickson, Time Storm (1977)

So, I dedicate this blog to all librarians; you are greatly appreciated.

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