Thursday, May 04, 2006

Library Closures

Nine libraries are closing in Lancashire - and Lancashire is not the only county with plans to close libraries. Politicians come up with all sorts of phrases about "access", "social inclusion" and make great play about the new digital resources provided through public libraries - but the bottom line is that there are less books in public libraries now than there were a few years ago, and a lot fewer libraries. It's the smaller libraries that are closing and they play an important role in the communities they serve. Often they are communities already poorly served by public transport, and lacking the amenities enjoyed in larger towns so the Library is one of the few resources that they have left. Only rarely are the closures taking place in the context of budget cuts, usually they are made in spite of budget increases. Resources are being deliberately transferred to larger urban libraries.

The closures are also taking place at the very time when the advent of the Internet, and the growth of online resources provides the potential to even up the disparity in information provision. The whole point about the internet is that it can give people in small communities the same access to information as those in larger communities - closing libraries now is creating a new "digital divide". All the fine phrases and policies about "Access" won't get people into closed buildings.

Here is an account of the closure of Rossendale Library from the Lancashire Evening Telegraph: