Saturday, March 12, 2011

Don't privatise our libraries

This piece of mine appears on the Guardian's Comment is Free website.

Neil Clark: The government's cuts threaten the future of much-loved public libraries. But we should be wary of its zeal for privatisation too.

"Save our libraries" has been one of the slogans of 2011, as local residents fight to preserve much-loved community assets against the government's cutbacks.
But there's another threat hanging over Britain's public library service: that of privatisation. The idea of privatised libraries would have been unthinkable in the mixed economy and genuinely progressive 1960s and 70s, but it shows how far down the road marked "neo-liberal extremism" we have travelled since 1979, that they're now very much on the agenda.

You can read the whole of the article here.


Gregor said...

Excellent article. Incidentally, one point I'd add is that public libraries are an important resource for many freelance writers and researchers. The irony is that 'the free market' is beloved of wealthy neo-liberal journalists because it is disproportionately kind to the kind of axiomatic, heavy-handed writing that they thrive on for 'ideas'.

Libraries are often the only resource for more rare books that are out of print and the best way to educate yourself.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Gregor,

Many thanks. You make some very good points about the importance of public libraries. We simply can't allow the 'free market' fanatics to destroy our public library service.

It's no surprise that they're being targeted in this age of neoliberal extremism. In many town centres the public library is the only place you can enter where you don't have to spend any money. You could spend hours in the library, researching, reading books, newspapers and journals, and not have to reach for your wallet.
You can understand why the market fundamentalists hate such places.

Alan Wylie said...

Excellent article, i have been following the activities of LSSI, John Laing etc in the UK and US for the past year, see my own blog

Anonymous said...

Great article. Gregor really hit the nail on the head. There are so many great books at my local library that I would have a hard time obtaining from a private bookseller.

Prof Rudi Affolter said...

The destruction of our free public library service would be an outright act of immoral vandalism. I have used public libraries since I was about 4 years old, and whilst in later years (I am now 53) University and more specialist libraries were more important to me personally, I still use my local public library (Crawley, W.SX)and many others such as in Redhill and Horsham. We cannot all afford to buy all the books we want, neither can we find a sanctuary in which to read them. Today they provide PC's, vital for research on the Internet. Not everyone can afford such things. Keep them Public and keep them open!