“Don’t make this our libraries’ final chapter”

Many thanks to  editor Fiona Phillips for permission to reprint this opinion piece from the Hereford Times of Thursday 30th June.

Don’t make this our libraries’ final chapter

So now we know: £200,000 can save Herefordshire Council a full library service or help pay off a senior officer already on a six figure salary – in the hope that the officer won’t sue for any more.

It’s all about priorities, you see.

Priorities like the new library Hereford should have had years ago but which was lost or forgotten about amid the all the finger-wagging over the “need” we’re told we have for more shops. Ironically, that same dream saw the city one day hosting university-level education.

Priorities like a mobile library service that reaches our remotest communities, meaning so much more than just book-lending.

When a librarian with 37 years of service says she fears for the future of that service then her former employers should listen.

But instead those employers will fork out yet more public money to some self-styled consultant pitching sacrifice at the altar of Acronym to wide-eyed devotees at a PowerPoint presentation.

That means death by a thousand cuts to the rest of us.

Libraries are unique environments and need to be. For many of us growing up, the local library was our internet. So excuse us if we don’t seem grateful that the county’s main libraries are staying open. Not only should they be staying open, but all the energy that is going into “remodelling” the service should be going into what more they can be as libraries and not, to use that grating phrase, one-stop shops.

Instead, we’re told that if we want a library in our community we had better be prepared to run it ourselves. That’s localism, the coalition’s great get-out clause: paying public servants huge salaries to cut services for communities to run themselves, while those communities still pay for such service. Genius.

As we hurtle ever downward into the abyss, there may be moss to cushion the fall. But we’re still a long way from the bottom.