Paul Cornell, one of my favourite Doctor Who writers and the current scribe of Action Comics, has tweeted this article from the Guardian about Government cuts to library services. Frankly the story it tells is horrifying – an appropriate alternative for a public library is a pub with a bookshelf? Really? – and while I’ve just praised Wikipedia in my previous post, in a media future dominated by user-generated content we’re going to need the specialist skills of experienced librarians to both help sort the wheat from the chaff and to navigate a labyrinth of information. And that’s before looking at things like providing free internet access to help bridge the digital divide and providing a space for storytelling and simply getting kids into reading.
It’s the casual attitude towards it that frightens me – in the past books were burned because states recognised their power; now access to books is so taken for granted that the importance of libraries is utterly downplayed and dismissed, just another expendable service to be cut away. It’s not exactly biblioclasm, but with reduced public access to information you’ve got to wonder if it could have similar after-effects.
Of course, these feelings may just be down to my personal politics: I know it’s foolish, but I’ve started to mentally say ‘The Coalition’ in the same way that I’d say ‘The Empire’ or ‘The Dominion’. On a more sane note, “The Big Society” just seems to be a euphemism for “Cut everything that moves and blame the plebs when they don’t replace their own services for free”. Or, “let’s hope the general public will clean up the mess we’re going to leave”.
But in the meantime libraries will close, and let’s not underestimate the impact of that on communities and yes, on the arts (how many writers credit their childhood library for making them a reader?). We’ll all suffer for that; for all we’re living in an information society, there are some things things the internet can’t – and shouldn’t, no, couldn’t – replace.
Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.