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“Then what are we fighting for?” January 17, 2011

Filed under: Books — lauravw @ 8:25 pm

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?””

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7 Responses to ““Then what are we fighting for?””

  1. halfbakedlog Says:

    I love the Churchill quote, never heard it before. I also have loved libraries all my life. I can’t imagine living somewhere and not having a local library to visit. There is a reason to live among all those shelves. Good luck.

  2. Ali Says:

    Well said. You and Churchill both.

  3. Like you, I used the local library a lot as a youngster. Apart from all those books (we could take out two at a time) I loved the smell of the place. My best friend eventually got a Saturday job there and I was so envious. (I worked in a shop). The library where we live now was closed down about ten years ago to be replaced by a mobile library, a converted bus which parks up round the corner from us once a week. Shame it’s always in work hours.

  4. Caroline Says:

    This really strikes a chord. I used the mobile library when I was a child and credit it with my liflelong love of reading. In the past couple of years I’ve come back to using the public library in a big way (saving a small fortune in the process). I love that I can reserve a book from the comfort of my own living room but I also love the serendipity of just browsing. Mmm I think I know where I’ll be heading tomorrow after reading this!

  5. cwill Says:

    Always good to know your sources – Churchill never said that:

    http://richardlangworth.com/2009/03/funding-the-arts-we-are-going-to-beat-them/

  6. lauravw Says:

    An interesting update – thank you.

  7. Amen!

    Great story. I just quoted Churchill this evening after trying to motivate some neighbors in voting for the school budget here so they don’t cut the music program from our local elementary school.

    Best of luck to you and your libraries!

    God bless,
    Bill Corrigan
    Long Island, NY
    USA


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