I am gutted to discover that my childhood library in Long Ashton, near Bristol, is to close it’s doors forever as part of a cost-cutting exercise by North Somerset County Council. This is the place where my love of reading began, where fact-finding was an enchantment and books my passion. It furnished my voracious appetite for stories and built the foundations for my future career as an author. My current local library in Co Kildare, Ireland is a thriving hub of learning and has seen the successful launch of many professional writers. It is valued and maintained as an essential resource for readers, artists, writers, computer programmers, children, adults, teens, learners, students, toddlers and lists too long to include about the social and economic benefits of a free library service. UK library closures are not, I would argue, a matter of prioritizing services within an ever-shrinking budget. It is a matter of much wider political significance. One must question a society which allows an ever-shrinking budget in an already inequitable society. Long Ashton is of mixed socio-economic demographics but it is fair to say that a very large proportion of the home-owners there are ABC1s who could no doubt self-fund and volunteer to set up their own community library to replace the one which is to be lost – an expressed intention in the council’s decision-making. Not every area can afford this or has the social capital quotient. What then? Put simply, the social divide widens, more austerity follows, until eventually a critical mass is reached and enough people are deprived enough to revolt.
Dangerous stuff, closing libraries.