Whoever wrote the article headed ‘New Chapter for Libraries’ in the Autumn issue of ‘County News’ (sic), published by Linclnshire County Council clearly has a future in Westminster.
The article was a brilliant example of political ‘spin’ in which bad and very unpopular policies are twisted, disguised and speciously edited until black becomes white and white becomes a rather nasty dirty grey.
According to this article, libraries are not closing in Lincolnshire, they are ‘adapting’ to new technology, so hard luck the young mums and older folk who quite like having a face-to-face chat while choosing a book, occasionally finding one they didn’t expect or being recommended something new: from now on it’s just you and your computer.
What an arid view of society Mr Worth offers us: social contact reduced to that solitary figure staring at the screen that the article has – ironically – used as an illustration.
Isolation and loneliness can be significant problems for any age-group, particularly of course for those who can’t or who no longer go to work. Has it never occurred to Coun Worth or those who brief him that many trips to the library are at least in part the chance to meet and greet, to talk with other human beings?
How will a computer help the elderly lady who regularly asks staff to recommend her next book so that she can have a friendly chat, the young mother who includes the library in her daily walk because it is safe, warm and friendly, the newcomer to an area who pops in to find groups and clubs which will offer the chance to meet new people, to make friends, to find out about a new neighbourhood, the youngster whose parents haven’t been able to provide the broadband access needed to complete homework and coursework?
Of course e-communications are important and valuable but why is this technology being promoted as an alternative to human interaction? Surely we should be promoting – if only to protect our mental health – opportunities for people to meet and mingle, not slamming (library) doors in their faces.
Coun Worth insists that it is ‘our ambition to keep all the county’s libraries open’. If so, threatening to close most of them seems a very odd way to do it.
Using the phrase ‘giving the opportunity’ to volunteers to run their own services is polite-speak in the extreme: giving them no choice would be a more honest way of putting it.
When people do, in desperation, investigate just how hard it would be to run a library for themselves, this is described as ‘a positive response’ to a totally misguided policy.
Coun Worth is also quoted as talking about ‘support’ for community groups’ but he well knows that the most important support would be professional staff and financial aid – which are very unlikely to be offered in sufficient quantity since to do so would wipe out all those alleged savings.
He talks about a ‘tailored’ service when what he means is a stripped rag-end which will rapidly come unstitched.
I would like to point out to Councillor Worth that he has not been elected to act as an apologist for Lincolnshire County Council. He was elected to represent us, his constituents, to protect us, to fight for our ‘individual needs’, not to consort with those who wish we didn’t have any! Let him look to his votes.