One of the things that distinguishes an educated, well read and intelligent country is its reverence for and preservation of learning in science, literature, research and creativity. The repository of collections of the recordings, writings and other media relating to these lies in Public Libraries, University Libraries, Archives and Museums.
On a national level, all countries have central collections of archives; publications are held and stored; thanks to people like Dewey we have systematic ordering of all our publications held in central libraries; universities have many libraries devoted to the writings and other recordings of different disciplines within their purview. This is good and a comprehensive record of human achievement. It sounds grand, maybe grandiose on this level.
When we come to the humble local public library, many of which serve communities within our countries, there is a lesser sense of grandeur and more a sense of how much do these small repositories of literature and research materials cost to maintain.
Well … to my mind, it matters not how much the monetary cost of maintaining public libraries. It matters that these public libraries are maintained and developed for the benefit of the populace. It is one of those educational and social repositories that all communities need.
So it is with dreadful distress that I have had to read this:
Quote: ‘ Nearly 350 libraries have closed in Britain over the past six years, causing the loss of almost 8,000 jobs, according to new analysis.’
In a country that prides itself on its supremacy in education, erudition, science and research, it is dreadful, to me, that the UK can elect to spend £167 billion on renewing a nuclear weapons facility and warheads in an age of ‘austerity’ while allowing our cache of public libraries to be halved. And, of course, that is not all to be decimated, halved, privatised or otherwise fucked.
Now we all know that we will never be consulted on whether or not Trident should be renewed and that is because the Westminster Government is beholden to the US and the US dictate what we will do in Defence spending in the UK.
But it is of absolute concern to me and many others that the education system (or should I say systems) is in utter disarray. We have so-called ‘faith schools’ burgeoning out of every city, ‘academies’ – otherwise known as the privatisation of schools – being snapped up by private groups and companies eager to get their grubby fingers on the largesse of funds being offered by our cash strapped government.
Besides, the control on the standard of education is slipping away like a greasy rope in the hands of those who no longer seem to care. Not that you would know it if you were to listen to the bleatings of the ultra right wing press that operates in the UK.
No – everything is fine so long as we agree to Westminster’s selective austerity programmes and tighten our already anorexic belts and suck it all up.
Back to public libraries: my wee library is in Glenwood.
A friendly place with good staff and a warm (I mean under floor heating) environment for us to access, use computers, wifi, borrow books, order books for borrowing and/or just sit and read the daily papers. It is what is called a community hub for the local catchment and the old folk who enjoy a blether, a good read and some comfort. There is a cat – a fixture and the whole atmosphere is one of welcome. The kids use the computers, the oldies read the papers, the not-so-oldies borrow books, DVDs and audios. In short it is a good place. I use it a lot. I often sit in the comfy armchairs and just read my current book.
This library is scheduled for closure and demolition. Apparently it is one of 16 public library closures in the next three years in the Kingdom of Fife. Fife Council is charged with making some £813,000 savings – partly because there is a reduction in the funds our non-independent Scotland receives from the Westminster Government.
So public libraries – to be fair, savings are being made across the local government board (even employees are being ‘retired’ – some 2,000 of them in Fife. It does make me wonder how often local government recruiting is used as a sliding indicator for national employment figures. God I am so cynical!) – and there are other areas in which ‘savings’ are being made. And, this is not the first time Fife has closed public libraries but I wasn’t living here then and didn’t know.
To target libraries is one of the most counter-productive actions I can think of. It is not just dear Glenwood suffering – new Council housing is in the offing in the Glenwood area and that means more young families. Fife Council has closed two public schools – thus over loading the poor school charged with taking the educationally orphaned students – it is across the Kingdom that these 16 library closures are happening.
Scotland has been a country of villages since its habitation by humans. It is so linguistically insular that you can tell the difference in speech within a few miles and a different village. The libraries that operate in these villages are far more than an operational budget item. They are the hub of small villages. They are the meeting place for the local people.
In the early 2000s, there was a directive in international standards that required a triple bottom line in accounting. Called the 3BL, it is an accounting framework that incorporates social, environmental (or ecological) and financial bottom line figures. It behooves companies to adopt this framework but it would appear that many haven’t bothered. I surrendered a directorship in an agricultural co-operative because the rest of the Board wouldn’t address these criteria.
What is happening now seems to me to be a refusal to understand the social, environmental impact of financial decision making. If it is recognised at all, it is ignored. We have a burgeoning global population and a seemingly fascistic central government called Westminster. At the very least, Westminster under Tory rule is aping US republican libertarianism. I have said before that the Tories eat Ayn Rand for breakfast every day.
Mind you, my friend in Australia is very sympathetic and also very pissed off – he sees the same thing happening in Australia and so I think – what on earth happened to the socialist left wing politics that put people before profit? That developed welfare safety nets, state funded secular education and a health system for all? We all seemed to gravitate to that in the 1970s and (sort of 1980s) when we were aware of our fellow man. What happened to all that? I do know the answer, of course. Globalisation happened and we knew it was on the door step in the 1970s. But it doesn’t stop me asking the question – what happened to our humanity? It seems to be dying as so many species are dying weekly, slowly etching out our own demise. What has it all been for? Our smarts have been our downfall and ultimate extinction. What a fucking waste!