In praise of libraries

Here's a thoughtful and passionate piece about the symbolic value of libraries in the BBC's Point of View column. Gudrun and I saw a couple of gorgeous early libraries a couple of weeks ago in Dublin (Trinity College, and Marsh's Library); both of us were deeply moved, as there is a very visceral beauty in seeing and smelling the sum of human knowledge so enshrined. You just don't get that with a Kindle. In Leicester, the beautiful Central Library building on Belvoir Street (originally built as a Baptist Church in 1845) is closing over Christmas, both jobs and books are disappearing as a result, and with them, opportunities for self-improvement and sheer pleasure. I'm afraid that the social project that saw the increase in public access to literacy and printed resources is disappearing for good. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating for the return of some mythical disappeared Golden Age, but it is clear that the so-called Big Society cannot succeed in a culture where a strong philanthropic tradition based on religious and moral beliefs no longer prevails among the economic elite. When neither the liberal nor conservative rich are interested nor have the resources (thanks to the institution of income tax) to support public resources such as charity schools, lending libraries, social housing, and medical/social care, on the scale that is necessary for innovation but also sustainability, then the government has to step up and do so instead. That is its job and responsibility. Cutting these services isn't an option; I really believe that. There is no personal or economic freedom to be gained from letting these things go.


Jenny said…
"Something happens between the words and the brain that is unique to the moment and to your own sensibilities."

"I think there might be many who consider one kind of happiness to be a deep armchair, a warm fire and a favourite book."

I don't really need to say more.

I'll miss that Central Library. The closure of any such place is a sin.

Books are something special. Tangible, rough, smooth, scented with dust, covered with biscuit crumbs and tea, and kept and given with love.
Stephanie said…
Well said, Jenny! Books are special.
Ceri said…
Knowledge and inspiration and creativity and learning about people and places is worth more than any amount of money. The media are continually moaning that the public are stupid and ignorant and only like churned out reality TV shows like X Factor and then the state does something which ensures alternative places of culture and knowledge are removed from society, or greatly reduced in their remit. It seems that some in the government want to close our minds not open them... or they are just so ignorant they cannot see that if they cut money to local councils whilst at the same time as giving them 'more power' (whilst the state actually cuts their powers elsewhere) something is going to give and of course the soft targets like museums and libraries come first.

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