The case for libraries has been made before many times before, so much so that you would think it is received wisdom, but constantly I am surprised by how politicians seem to never have had their common sense chips installed. To those unbelievers I would beg them to read this.
So with that weight behind it, both the Isle of Man and United Kingdom Governments have thought it was best that they stunt the intellectual growth of the nation by closing a large number of libraries down. Whilst this has been rumbling on for over a year in the UK, the Isle of Man recently saw the announcement that both the Family and Mobile Libraries were to close.
To me, a library closure is a disgrace and the sign of a society (or political class) too focused on the magical short term panacea of growth to be able to see the erosion of communities and children’s futures just around the corner. But this is also personal, as I spent many happy a time there as a child. I can still recall the sense of wonder in starting a new book, and the odd yet comforting smell of the books. Most probably the smell of a thousand children’s sweaty fingers.
According to the Minister of Education, Peter Karran, a man who looks as if his time spent as a garden gnome has left him permanently hate-filled towards humans, libraries are ‘non-essential’ and a ‘luxury’. Setting aside the fact that there are 18,000 users nor that it delivers 9,000 books to Island Primary schools, the gall to say that repositories of knowledge are anything but essential is a travesty to government. A sentiment that would make Ancient Greeks sick with anger. Modern Greeks have a bit too much on their plate at the moment.
Libraries do need to poke their head around the corner of modernity, not quite to the extent of wheeling out books in favour of Kindles, but instead to reaffirm their centrality within modern society. I want them to be centres of knowledge, whether it is harking back to the idea of a forum to exchange ideas, or simply providing seasonal and literacy campaign displays, activities and music to stimulate children’s interest in wider culture. Of course the latter is what happens at the Family Library.
So the Isle of Man has a facility (not just the building but the staff) that any government would want to take back to their country and much like the blinkered lover, it won’t realise what it has got until it has gone. And unfortunately that will be 15 years down the line when today’s children are strolling into adulthood with an education but not a full and true engagement with with joy of learning. The joy that only being allowed to explore knowledge on their own terms, at their own speed, in a library. And more’s the pity.
So if you do agree then please add your voice to the campaign HERE