The British government’s latest attempt to sidle away from its statutory responsibilities to provide adequate library services takes the form of guidance on the Gov.uk website on how to “Create a community library” which tells you “how you can help support local libraries, including taking on ownership and management.”
“The latest announcement on www.gov.uk is of huge concern,” said the Library Campaign’s statement on the news. And Library Campaign chair Laura Swaffield added: “I really had thought the government couldn’t sink any lower on libraries. But now it’s moved from lazily passive to actively hostile … What next? Create your own hospital?”
“Public library services are highly valued by the communities they serve. However, alongside other public sector services, they are facing enormous financial challenges,” continues the central government statement. And to reiterate: Those “enormous financial challenges” are the consequence of central government macroeconomic mismanagement and, in many cases, local government incompetence. All of which the government is now trying to load onto readers. And “community library” is the handy euphemism they have now coined for this abdication of responsibility.
And as a Scot, I’m happy to see that the despicable behavior in Westminster is contrasted with the actions of the Scottish government, where Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has publicly objected to plans by Moray Council to close seven of its 15 libraries. “I am disappointed and dismayed over the decision and call for the council to reconsider,” she declared. “There has been widespread and well-founded concern for the people of Moray around the closure of these libraries.”
But perhaps this problem really shouldn’t concern us too much. After all, large sections of the UK media have apparently concluded that books in themselves constitute a public danger, and should be kept out of the hands of the English as much as possible.