I was appalled today when I read John McTernan’s article advocating the closure of public libraries. His main argument is that libraries are underused and out of date now that everybody can access information off the internet or learn from Sky Arts. He supposes that anyone opposed to library closures is (a) middle class (I’m not) and (b) not a library user (I am).
Where McTernan’s argument fails (straight off) is that he doesn’t seem to realise that not everybody has internet access or a Sky subscription. Perhaps in his social circle these things are a given, but in real life they’re an expense that not everybody can afford. (I’m lucky enough to have an ancient, steam powered laptop – but if it breaks down I won’t be able to afford a new one. Then I’ll be scuppered.) There’s something of the out of touch Peter Mandelson leaping off his article.
I depend on my local library. This year alone I’ve probably read over £200 worth of books. Some books are for leisure, some to make a long, boring commute to work more bearable, and others as background reading for my Open University degree. Through the library I have learned about the causes of the banking collapse, the Wall Street Crash and about the American political system. I have indulged my love of Stuart and Tudor history. I have read books by authors as diverse as Alistair Campbell and Ian Rankin, Emily Bronte and Alexander McCall Smith. I have learned more about the world than I ever could if I was staring at a computer screen.
If it wasn’t for my local library I could never have afforded this – not on minimum wage. And there are many others exactly like me up and down the country. I suggest that Mr McTernan climbs down from his middle class ivory tower and speaks to the ordinary people who rely on – and love – their local library.
(The article was published today in The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/8838633/Liberal-whingers-are-wrong-we-should-shut-our-libraries.html )