This is buzzing around the blogosphere and there are far wiser and more erudite writers explaining why the closure of 250 libraries in the UK is a BAD IDEA. All I can do is give my perspective on this and leave the politicians the opportunity to do the right thing. For once!
As you know, I'm into my history. While most of it does involve swordfighting and gladiators, sometimes it does stray into the big ideas of civilization.
You know what? Libraries define civilization. Not reality tv, not banks, not the bread and circuses.
The great library of Alexandria. It pushed Eygpt to the centre of the world and it's loss is still being felt today, 2000 years later. There were scientists and thinkers operating out of its walls who invented the steam engine. Imagine where we'd be now if the industrial revolution had happened in the first century AD rather than the 18th? That's were science, philosophy and cultures met, learnt from one another and made the world a wiser, more tolerant place. You get rid of libraries, you get rid of wisdom, you might as well just chuck thsoe books on a bon-fire. Like they did in Germany in the 1930s. And we know that turned out well.
"Oh yes, Sarwat, but it's all electronic now. Paper is passe. Wouldn't it be so much easier if people could download it. Problem solved."
Sorry, but that's the arguement of someone who's never been in a library in like the last ten years. Last time I looked our library had classes for pensioners (like teaching them how to use the computer and surf), story-telling groups for toddlers, language classes, author meetings, writing classes, book groups and the opportunity to do something else than spend the day inside your house ALONE. It's a chance for people to get out, meet, exchange ideas, learn something from others. Someone mentioned wanting to create the 'Big Society'. Oh yes, it was the Prime Minister. Well, the first brick in building that society is the library.
I didn't have a lot of books in the house. Not everyone can afford it because books are a luxury item and if you're not so well off you want food on the table first. The library was where I learnt about the world. I read about Ceasar crossing the Rubicon, the battle of Hattin, the witchtrials. I learnt that Afghanistan has been more trouble than it's worth for over two millenia. Even Alexander the Great thought it best just to get on the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Frankly, if one or two politicans had visited their own libraries before commiting to war, a lot of lives would have been saved. It opened the world to me and made me realise how marvellous it all is. We are retreating into parochial mindsets already, shutting down libraries will only speed that process up and all our news and knowledge will become the unfiltered rants of the loud and empty voices.
The library has been the mark of a civilization. Always has, always will be. Those that tear them down will be judged badly by history.