Things have been getting rather ugly here in Austerity Britain, what with violence blighting some of the protests against government spending cuts. And that makes this story about library users in Buckinghamshire all the more endearing: their library is under threat of being closed to save money, and so to protest, they withdrew all of the books. Every last one of them.
“Every library user was urged to pick their full entitlement of 15 books, take them away and keep them for a week. The idea was to empty the shelves by closing time on Saturday: in fact with 24 hours to go, the last sad bundle of self-help and practical mechanics books was stamped out.” (The Guardian)
I am lucky enough to live near an excellent and very popular library – it’s not at risk of closure, but it has had its staff and book/CD budget drastically cut (luckily for them, my habit of returning books late means they get a steady trickle of cash from me in the way of overdue book fines). It makes me very sad – British public libraries are such special places. For much of my childhood, my mother worked in libraries, and I enjoyed visiting her at work and getting to potter around behind the scenes, withdrawing more books than I was technically allowed, and getting to pick from new books before they went on the shelves.
In thinking about libraries I am reminded of a quote I saw on Twitter the other day. I’ve not been able to find the source of where I read it, but some Googling has found the quote:
“During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”"