Monday, March 15, 2010

BBC Newsnight on libraries - tonight

To quote the blurb on the Newsnight page at the BBC:

David Grossman will be exploring some of the challenges facing public libraries - will they be circumvented by digital technology and what is the future of local authority funding?

Watch item here


Well that proved frustrating. The metaphorical argument presented went something like: The Victorians built public baths when people didn't have running water in their homes. We don't need or use public baths now.

The libraries were built when people didn't have access to education and books, but 70% of households are online so why do we need libraries?

No, I'm not making this up. I find it hard to try to construct logical rebuttals to such fatuous parallels. 70% of households have cars, so we don't need buses? (Even though, when the breadwinner is out with the car, everyone else is stranded). If your mum can afford her Mills&Boon, and your dad his sports biographies, you don't need exposure to the other range of books possible. Even your teachers keep you to the curriculum recommended texts.

Libraries contain dangerous ideas, don't they? Thoughts outside the box, or your narrow little world view.

And personally, if they insist on their metaphor, I miss the public baths. Forget that I can fill a kettle or take a shower when I want at home. When I first came to Cardiff the Empire Pool offered safe, hygenic Sauna, Turkish baths, cold plunge, jacuzzi, swimming pool, etc. I miss it since they pulled it down (promising to replace it, but never did).

I've had saunas in Sweden and Finland, and they are integral to the culture, and terrific for public health, but I don't want to have to go to sleazy dives full of fat, sweaty politicians hoping for a hand job - not meaning to slag off the 'massage parlours' still available, perhaps they are not all like that, but they scare me. I used to like going to the council baths.

The idea that I don't still need that safe environment provided presumably comes from people with swimming pools in their back garden (or in their second home in Tuscany), and who have bathrooms with Jacuzzis and saunas.

I hate to tell you folks, but most people still don't have those in their homes as standard.

Yeah, I said it was a stupid parallel, but I didn't bring it up. :-)

Libraries remain one of the few places for self-educators and lifelong learners, and evidence from around the world implies that an educated population is beneficial to the country's wealth creation.

Perhaps the people become a bit more dissident, getting exposure to a wider range of ideas and possibilities, but in the long run it seems a better idea. However, your voters become a little less easily manipulated, perhaps.


Just personal opinion, rant over. G'night.

PS: they reiterated the idea that making libraries self-service doesn't need to mean that staff lose their jobs, just that they get redefined. Yeah, right (you will hear on the shop floor). And they also mentioned bad management of the services, and that some of the jobs that could afford to go might lie in those higher realms. Hmmm. Isn't that how we lost being represented by a Chief Librarian, and an Assistant Chief Librarian, all those years ago...

Anyway - don't believe me, you can go check it out online at the BBC...

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