Last year I had read somewhere that in the United Kingdom, public libraries were taking a beating. With access to the Internet and ebooks, apparently the number of people using libraries was down. The government began to rethink the need for libraries and many were slated to close.
When I read this, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had to search the webpage to see if this indeed was current news. It was. Not only were libraries being reduced in number, the government defended the closures by saying the public wasn’t interested in the old system any longer and preferred to learn and find information from the Internet. On top of that, fewer libraries meant tax payers would save millions.
A more recent article on the hardships of libraries in the United Kingdom is found on The Book Seller website. It explains the Bexley library is going to start charging membership fees when a charity organisation takes control in the spring.
Stop…I know this sounds insane, but it’s true.
It’s as though the United Kingdom is turning back the clock 120 years to when the affluent members of society had access to books and the poor illiterates weren’t expected to read.
But times have changed and libraries are now a life line for many who can’t afford to own a computer or have Internet access. Many government services are available only on the web. Often times, it’s the individuals who can’t afford computers and the Internet who need these services the most.
Charging individuals to use libraries alienates people who cannot afford or choose not to own computers.
Personally, I can’t believe this sort of thing would happen in Canada. Our libraries in Nova Scotia are growing, expanding and offering more services than ever before. They host book launches, preschool story time, art classes, genealogy classes, computer courses and the list continues to grow. Why are our libraries becoming success stories while the UK libraries are floundering?
I wonder if the citizens of the UK saw this coming ten or twenty years ago. If they didn’t, would we?
What do you think? Do you value your library? Do you even know where it is?