Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
The last page for libraries?
A select committee report shows a worrying decline in the number of people
using libraries. To save them we need to visit them, says Sameer Rahim.
Protesters outside Kensal Rise
library in Brent, North-West London.Photo: Oli
Over the last three years a pitched battle has been fought between
English councils keen on streamlining their library service – basically closing
small ones to support shiny large ones – and anti-cuts campaigners such as Alan
Bennett, who with uncharacteristic overstatement compared library closures to
Residents in the Wirral in north-west England, and Brent and Camden in London, have pinned their
hopes on convincing culture minister Ed Vaizey to personally intervene. Under
the terms of a 1964 act of Parliament councils are obliged to provide a
“comprehensive and efficient” service to the public – and if they don’t meet the
standard, the Secretary of State can force their hand.
However, as a select committee report into library closures
published yesterday points out, the 1964 act does not define what “comprehensive
and efficient” actually means. Brent’s closure of six libraries last year –
subject to a failed legal challenge by residents – could be regarded as making
efficient use of scarce resources. Councils are on average having to cut their
budgets by 28 per cent under the current spending review. Since the Coalition
Government is asking for those cuts it is unsurprisingly wary of intervening.
How much do libraries cost the nation? The committee report has some
interesting facts. There are 3,500 libraries in England costing £900 million a
year. The question is can this amount be justified given the number of people
visiting libraries has declined steeply in the last 20 years. Full story at The Telegraph