Poor Andre Walker. Had he known what a tough crowd the Twitter sect of the information community is, he might have had the sense to keep his face shut. Walker doesn’t seem a particularly bad egg, just a silly one, who made a statement without information or evidence, about an industry he doesn’t work in and a service he doesn’t use. Being a columnist, you’d assume Walker would have done a little fact checking, or at the very least, scoped out his local before sending punchy tweets into the world. Alas, misinformation strikes again.
As you would expect from information professionals, the online LIS community were quick to corner Walker, bashing his ill advised opinion into shape, and in fairness to Walker’s stupidity, he backed down pretty quickly.
Interestingly what has transpired, at least in my trawl through of replies and comments to Walker, is the idea that libraries must remain open to serve ‘the poor’. In the effort to rescue libraries, both press and politics seem deranged to sell the library as an all encompassing resource for the aged and underprivileged, and I’d like to suggest that this is a little dangerous. Firstly, because it’s really flaming patronising, and secondly because current austerity measures enforced by our government don’t like to consider ‘the poor’. So, dear LIS folk, if our only pitch to stay open is to serve ‘the poor’, as valid and appropriate as that argument is, we’ll be closing doors quicker than the already alarming rate…
“We have already lost 340 libraries over the past eight years and we think that unless immediate action is taken, we stand to lose the same number over the next five years.” Nick Poole, CILIP
Public libraries are a resource for all. That’s what makes them so special. They are a shared service, with pulled resources that everyone can access. Or at least they were. I have used Public, School, University and Specialist libraries in my time; as a child, student and working professional. My loan history has changed over the years, from picture books, to Teenage fiction; contemporary Scottish literature to textbooks, and most recently to audio books and online e-books. But that isn’t all that’s on offer. Use the printer; get advice on public services; make new pals; join a code club or a reading group; trace your family tree; go to a gig; or breastfeed your baby in family changing. These are all services available to patrons at my local, underprivileged and privileged alike. By the count of mere Stokke and Bugaboo prams rolling into Leith’s McDonald Road library of a Monday morning for Bookbug, I think it’s a fair conclusion from my limited research (peering out the window) that library patrons aren’t just the underprivileged.
On the other side of the fence, and even more crucial to the saving libraries campaign is the investment in the information society that we now live in. It’s interesting to me that growing economies, like Japan, have invested heavily in libraries and information sharing resources, whilst we, in our economically questionable Brexit phase are replacing information professionals with volunteers, and closing existing information resources to the workforce, instead of updating and supporting a resource that could further the workforce and by default the economy.
Read more here: 14 million fewer books available in libraries than when David Cameron took office | Closing libraries is a fine way to keep the poor powerless | Library closures ‘will double unless immediate action is taken’ | 10 things you need to know about library closures/campaigns | Inauguration of the Japanese Books Library at the Growth Lab in Aundh, Pune | Public Libraries in Japan: Triggers for the renovation of library service models