Last week I arrived in Leicester for a couple of library events. I’m always made to feel welcome by Leicester’s libraryfolk and this day was no different... except that pretty much every member of the Library Service in Leicester was due to find out that day whether they had their job, or a different job, or no job at all.
It was an awkward, tense, humbling day. How could it not be? Everyone did their best to keep things on track and their chins all the way up. The stoicism on display was gobsmacking, as everyone went about their business with one eye on the nearest phone, wondering if, when the bell tolled, it would be tolling for them.
Of course, this is happening or has happened all over the country – but this was just the most groin-kickingly sobering reminder I’ve had of the dismantling of the libraries service in the UK and I was left with a sense of queasiness and not-so faint disgust.
My Favourite Librarian was recently shoehorned out of her job after more than forty years. Her support and enthusiasm for this once green-gilled author, stumbling blindly into the world of public events, was invaluable. It’s a rare day someone tells you that you’re doing things right in this line of work (or that you're doing things wrong, although she was much too nice for that) and I’ll always be grateful to her.
Gah. I dunno... I know new libraries have been built, and most of them are very, very impressive. But now these cuts have happened, no one – no government – is going to restore libraries to their former glory. The undeniable cull is undeniably to the detriment of the people who need libraries most. Closures and job losses aren’t happening because the services needs ‘streamlining’; they’re not even happening because Project: Austerity is upon us and we all enjoyed the good times, sipping port and bathing in champagne and wiping our backsides with diamonds and eating helicopters, but now we must all tighten our belts because We’re All in This Together and should be grateful to our benevolent leaders for taking time out from being on holiday to try and make everything better for us; closures and job losses are happening because, by and large, the people who run this country just don’t see the point of libraries. They don’t understand them. They don’t use them. After all, libraries are generally frequented by the sort of people for which they have the least use: poor people. The same wretched, ungrateful, poor people who selfishly sap the economy and have no respect and moan and wail and rob and riot and serve no purpose and won’t EVEN work hard enough to afford to buy books instead of having to borrow them. And the one thing this government abides less than ever is those pesky poor people.
And I’m sure if you’ve read this far you’ve realised I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been said.
I’m just really jarred off. As they say round my way.
And hungry. Where did I put that helicopter?