It was reported this week that our dear PM performed yet another U-turn (to add to the ever-growing list, which includes forests, school sports and even getting Larry the Cat) on the proposal to close a local library in his Witney constituency by Oxfordshire County Council, as reported in this week’s Independent on Sunday.
Not only is this flagrant hypocrisy given the closure of libraries on which local communities depend up and down the country, it is also ‘pork-barrelling’ of the lowest kind and an example that we are not in fact “all in this together”. The prospect of libraries being closed by local authorities who are facing savage cuts is deeply depressing – I, like so many other young people, relied on my local library for computer access growing up, but more importantly I was regularly able to borrow up to ten books at a time (some regrettably I forgot to return), discovering chuldren’s favourites like Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl and Mark Twain in the process, alongside history books and encyclopaedias.
Not only is it divisive and running directly against the government’s intentions to mend our apparently ‘broken’ society, it is morally wrong to target the cuts on the poorest, the elderly and most importantly children, who have no vote and no say in how resources are allocated. Priorities have to be made, but library closures cannot even be justified on crude market terms, because they are still being used widely and are a lifeline for so many. It seems that the local lending library could be nearing its epilogue if we do nothing about it, with disastrous consequences for childhood literacy and social mobility.