Friday, 3 December 2010


I don't see why I should allow other people to have a soap-box spot on my blog if I can't do it myself. So, here goes. And beware: I'm angry.

Got my Oxfam gift catalogue recently. Bought a few things for some people I know who don't need anything bought for them and are delighted to have something bought on their behalf for people in places where they really do need things.

One of the more expensive things in the Oxfam catalogue is a library, which you can buy to help lift people in developing countries out of poverty. Because libraries are the mark of development, of self-esteem, of open minds, of growth, of strength and of humanity.

Which makes it all the more sickening, grotesque and ignorant that our politicians, in our so-called developed country, are closing libraries. They call it economic. It's not economic. We can afford libraries. We must afford libraries. No, this is not economic; it's political. It's stupid, too.

Only someone with a closed mind closes libraries. Or, perhaps, someone so ignorant, so arrogant, that he thinks that everyone can buy books. Or that "it's all on the internet, innit?"

No, it's not all on the internet. It's all in books. And minds. And without books, minds are empty.

So, Mr Cameron, Mr Vaizey, and all you other foolish, empty-minded, treacherous politicos: don't rob us of our libraries, because in doing so you show nothing but your own ignorance.

Please, everyone, don't let this happen. Blog and rant about libraries and cuts. Write to politicians. I did last night. And if you know people who have already blogged, please put links to them in the comments below. I'll then transfer them into this post.

Here we go:

Join Alan Gibbons' Campaign for the Book Facebook page
Notes From the Slush-Pile
KM Lockwood- an open letter
Philip Ardagh writing on FB
Lucy Coats at Scribble City Central
Keren David on Almost True
A librarian here
See if you have a local campaign group here
Jo Cannon here


Sam Pennington said...

Its funny you should write about this today. Our village newsletter plopped through the letterbox today containing a note from the local library begging people to use it as it's in danger of being closed. It's always busy in there, and it doubles as a little community centre for different groups. The thought of it closing is inconceivable, but I bet shutting it, and others down is a nice, easy way of saving money without generating too much of a furore.
Desperate times..

Emma said...

I'm a long-time lurker (and big fan) of this blog, but when I read this post I felt I just had to comment. I work in a small but busy library, and every day I witness first-hand the vital role it plays in my community. Even in this day and age, people think libraries are dusty, outdated places run by old-fashioned librarians who frown down their noses at you if you so much as sneeze - WRONG.

Our library (in my opinion ;-) ) is bright and attractive, and, like all libraries, offers a massive range of services that simply aren't available anywhere else, or through any other organisation. We have book groups, a writing group, a service delivering books to people who are housebound and baby and children's story times. And that's just for starters!

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing children who 'aren't interested' in books becoming some of our most avid readers. As for me (and many of our customers, I expect), I could never afford to buy all the books I get through. So if the library goes, we're denied the right to read. How can anyone - especially politicians - think that is okay?

I think that sadly, libraries are too often seen as a luxury, meaning they're one of the first things to go when we fall on hard times because they're perceived as something we don't actually 'need'. It's a disgusting attitude, and we MUST fight it.

Rin said...

Here here Nicola, I share your venom re people who even entertain the idea of closing libraries. How absurd!

Teresa Ashby said...

Well said, Nicola - we must not lose our libraries.

Book Maven said...

I have to go out but will blog about this tomorrow and link to yours if I may?

So weary at having to campaign for libraries yet again for the nth time in 20 years!

Damn this government and any government who thinks closing libraries is the way to go!

JO said...

There's nothing more to say? but I want to join those who are standing up to be counted - libraries are absolutely vital to our communities.
And so are librarians - this isn't a job that can be taken over my well-meaning volunteers, just to keep them open. We need libraries - and professional librarians!

IanBontems said...

I'm a writer and assistant librarian and couldn't agree more with this post.

So many people in the community where I work will be left isolated without the presence of their local library and the town will be poorer for it if the library goes.

The politicians really have no idea how important libraries are to the cities, towns and villages of this country.

Queenie said...

Hear, hear. A friend of mine is a writer and librarian, I'm not sure whether you know about her blog but she's written a librarian's-eye view of this today, here: which I think would be worth adding to your link list.

Anna Bowles said...

Some of the worst-hit areas have local campaign groups who are getting some traction. Google for yours, or try

If you are a published author and you live in/come from somewhere where the libraries are under threat you might be able to help your local group raise awareness by adding your support, as it's a hook for a media story. I'm from Cheltenham and Friends of Cheltenham Libraries passed my details on to the county paper, which resulted in this article.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Amen to all you've said. Libraries are civilized and heaven knows, we need more civilizing influences!

Better to cut out some of the smutty TV that's on day-in, day-out.

Tracy said...

Ahhh, don't even get me started on Politicians...the crooks, cheats and liars who are selfish, self-serving, oh, yeah, I said I wouldn't get started...sorry!

catdownunder said...

Blogged about this today. How is it we can waste Aust$45m (about £25m) on a failed bid to host the World Cup but we cannot find money for libraries? I think we have our priorities wrong. Sigh...

Jo Cannon said...

In addition to the wonderful community role played by local libraries, I feel desperately sad to think that generations of children will be deprived of such a vital service. This is my blog post in memory of my local library:

Tasmanian Devil said...

As I recall (yes, I am that old), public lending libraries were started in Victorian England against the prevailing voices that said book sales would decline. The sales immediately trebled and have been on a high ever since.

So, by closing libraries, book sales should decline, putting more people in Great Britain out of work and will affect the profitability of publishers and therefore shareholders (the sort of people who vote for Tories) and more to the point, authors, including those from overseas trying to sell into GB.

I've been following this story since last January when the Labour Party settled on it as a great idea. So with such a groundswell of political will going in this (wrong-footed) direction the thing to do is for everyone else to take action.

Get into derelict buildings and do them up a bit. Bring in those artifacts you've finished reading and donate them. Give your time to help 'staff' the library. Organise children's story hours. Get Nicola Morgan and others to do book readings etc. Before long you will have a flourishing library and eventually a council grant and before long, the council will take it over again.

Is this pie in the sky? NO! In Canberra (the capital of Australia for freaking sake), a popular library branch was closed and all this was put into action by very angry citizens.

Over to you...

Nicola Morgan said...

Mary - of course.

All - thanks for your comments and links.

Lucy Coats said...

Ed Vaizey asked last night on Twitter 'why are people suddenly sending me open letters? I would encourage you all to tell him at @edvaizey and use the new #CFTB hashtag (for Campaign for the Book). If we write enough letters to newspapers and MPs (I also did mine yesterday), blog, and generally shout loud and often, then maybe the politicians will think twice about doing this.

Anonymous said...

Can I, respectfully, beg to differ?

You wrote that David Cameron was a "foolish, empty-headed, treacherous" politician, because he wants to close libraries.

But is it David Cameron closing libraries, or is it your local council?

When I tracked back to one of the original articles on this, the cuts were made by councils, not by the central government (indeed, the government spokesman seemed to reaffirm the requirement that councils provide library services):

You might argue that the government shouldn't be cutting grants to the councils, but that's a larger arguement.

Before people crucify me, I should say that I very much support my local library. Indeed, I happily pay overdue fines as I see it as support for an institution I value.

Nicola Morgan said...

Anon - absolutely, you may! I'm away from PC at the moment so can't find you relevant links, but a) David C and Ed V are both politicians in Oxfordshire, which is facing the worst cuts - if they wanted to fight for their constituency libraries, they could b) the politicians will use your point as an excuse but again, they could easily ring-fence education/libraries if they cared enough, easily c0 the cuts are imposed from on high and are out of all proportion to the economic situation. The debt is grossly exaggerated and these swingeing cuts are political, not borne of economic necessity. Cameron is in charge: the buck stops with him. I blame the whole govt, but rather than naming each, I pick on him and Mr V!

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

I heartily agree with this. It's one of the few amenities left to people on very low incomes. Just how much beggary do they want to reduce us to in this country?

Tasmanian Devil said...

I refer you all to the following Panorama program link which has the cuts as its topic:

Its title is The cuts, can you fight back.

It's not just D Cameron. It's a systemic (council) problem in the UK. As I said, I've been watching this since last January to see if it infects the rest of the Commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

I live in the United States and heard this unbelievable story that libraries would be closing for financial reasons. I don't live in England, but I just think this is one of the most inconceivable ways imaginable for a government to save money. We are in some sort of financial crises but yet there are billionaires still living in luxury. Can't they pull their resources to help the less fortunate? The burden doesn't have to be on one millionaire, billionaire or multimillionaire, but it's just silly to shut down libraries. Children without internet access cannot do their homework now without computers. Where will these underprivileged kids go to get their homework done? Computers for schoolkids have become indispensable. Talk to the wealthy. Maybe it could be a tax writeoff.