Radical librarians and the future of public libraries in the uk

Below The Portico Library, Manchester (pictures by me) 

 Work has been really busy over the last fortnight but I am still on the web. I participated in a very interesting Twitter chat hosted by the Radical Librarians. I’m not sure I’m radical, although I sympathise with much of their opinion which is basically that since libraries are vital to the political health of the country they should be publicly funded. My issue is that since we have a Conservative government that we perhaps need to be pragmatic. I feel that whilst our libraries (especially public libraries) are so threatened that we need to play the politicians at their own game.

One of the groups in society least affected by cuts are the baby boomers who are notorious for voting and making their demands known. Equally needy, but less likely to vote and statistically shown to be having a worse deal with the cuts are the young and unemployed. Maybe we as librarians need to appeal to the “grey” vote? Would this help to put pressure on the government to stem the closures and cuts to services. I don’t know but the current state of affairs is very depressing.

My other thought came as a result of visiting the rather fab Portico library in Manchester. This is a private library funded by its members. It has also been the subject of various philanthropists over the centuries, managing to stay open by changing and adapting. I wondered if we could appeal to rich benefactors (bibliophiles if you will) to support our libraries. It’s certainly happened in the past as many libraries were built by rich benefactors to help the local community. My local library has become a “neighbourhood collection point” within a children’s centre. I would have been very happy if local money had enabled it to stay open.

I’m interested in what others think. On Twitter I was told this goes against librarians’ ethics as libraries should be paid for by public money. I’d like to explore why in order to understand this issue?

PS I’m about to get a copy of the ethics of librarianship book, so I may change my viewpoint after reading it. I’m honestly interested in why donations would be wrong rather than trying to play devils advocate 😉

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