Cast your minds back, if you will, to the days of 2008. A time of despair for libraries. A time when they looked like they were in terminal decline (with 6/7 years of continual decreases in lending and visiting numbers according to official statistics). A time when people said that they had no need to borrow books from the library as they could buy them cheaply from Amazon etc. A time when library campaigners were claiming that:
…..the heart of the problem of the UK public library service is the quality of the stock on offer in each public library……
Sad times indeed. Fast forward two years and where are we? Well, in many ways we are in much the same place. Same old, tired claims about libraries in decline, librarians are apparently making poor decisions leading to people losing interest in libraries at a time when reading has never been more popular (or lucrative). Except….there is one big difference between then and now:
2007/8 – Library issues: 307,571,240
2009/10 – Library issues: 309,350,755
Yep, that’s right, a rise in book loans of 1,779,515. And, I’d wager, there have been a fair number of libraries closed in the past two years, not to mention hours and staff cut. Makes you wonder how many issues there would have been had library authorities not indulged in cuts. I look forward to library campaigners talking up the strengths of the library service in the face of cuts and closures, instead of constantly harping on about the negative aspects (and there are some don’t get me wrong). So how about it? Let’s talk up the positive side. By talking about the bad aspects, all we do is play into the hands of the government and local councils who can point to libraries and say that they are failing and need to be taken over by people who can ‘make it work’. The same old trick played before any attempt at privatisation – talk the service down, increase public sympathy for handing it over (see the Royal Mail – 26% increase in profits, but the ‘negative’ side is talked up so it can be handed to the private sector). It can work without palming them off to volunteers and the private sector. The proof is there, now just give them some funding.