Hundreds of Public Libraries Across UK Threatened with Closure

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375 public libraries across the UK could soon face closure, with dropping numbers in visits and tightening council budgets to blame.

The indisputable and ever-growing power of the internet is a crucial factor to take into account, a bleak but logical explanation to the recent reduction in visits. Last year, out of the 4,490 libraries across the UK, visits were down by a hefty 250,000.

Libraries are an invaluable part of the community and running them costs each person only a few pence each week. This has left many both puzzled and angry that low council budgets are being used as an excuse for so many closures. Campaigns against the expected closures are attracting increasing attention, and are supported by well-known writers such as Carol Ann Duffy and Philip Pullman.

Should closures come into effect, community libraries would be the only alternative. However, affluent areas are more likely to be able to provide this service to the public than more deprived ones, as the latter could be less likely to have enough people with the time and commitment to regularly volunteer.

The Wessex Scene wants to hear your views concerning the potential closure of many libraries nation-wide. Is it right that libraries are closing down and that more people are instead relying on the internet for information? Is the idea of the library as the heart of the community still relevant?

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Discussion8 Comments

  1. avatar

    For a lot of kids in poor areas, public libraries are a vital and sometimes the only access to decent books. It would be a disaster if they were closed down.

    Nicola
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    I couldn’t agree more. I have 2 siblings, aged ten and six. We don’t live in a poor area, but if the local library closed down and they couldn’t go there anymore, I’d be gutted. Libraries are an essential part of the community.

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    I think the harsh truth is that the advent of new technologies is making public libraries – at least as we know them now – redundant and unaffordable. With more and more books (and other literature) being digitalised the need for a ‘physical’ distribution point becomes less important. This isn’t to say they aren’t vital in allowing easy access to books for those who can’t afford other means of acquiring them, but in the battle between cost-cutting and welfare there will always be only one winner.

    The issue here is that alternatives to public libraries are seemingly being ignored (at least from what I can tell, is there any source for this article?). I think instead of simply closing down libraries (which, as a frequent user of my own public library, would be a great shame) councils should look into developing a new model of the public library, a model which exploits new technologies rather than submits to them. I imagine a centralised, government funded library which distributes books in a similar fashion to Itunes or lovefilm (but for free) could greatly reduce costs whilst simultaneously broadening access to books. Even giving away Kindles to means-tested families would be much cheaper than running many public libraries at a loss.

    Of course to those people that consider their local library as an important part of their community the feeling will be of distress and anger. But surely the number of people using the library is the best measure of its importance? And if they’re not being used, they’re not that important.

    Ian Anstice
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    The figure of 375 is taken from my site – for the full list of library closures and handy map see http://publiclibrariesnews.blogspot.com/
    For reasons to defend libraries, please see http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/

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    Libraries are so much more than books. They are an integral and vital part of every community and should be funded rather than closed. The internet is not the answer and what is more not everyone can afford the internet and those are the people who use library services, including the computers. I work at a library and since the recession we have seen an dramatic increase in library visits – unemployed looking for jobs, preparing CVs on the computers, English as a Second Language programmes, people networking. With a library card comes not only books but CDs, DVDs, games, computers and printers; advice on EVERYTHING; it is a meeting place; somewhere to exchange ideas, to learn more about the country and communities. Closing libraries is disastrous; just how small minded are those who think this is a good idea? Consider the long term effects of this poor and tunnelled vision decision.

    Nicola
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    Barbara, an excellent point, well put.

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    La amenaza de cierre significa ignorar las posibilidades de cambio de servicios y de publico destinatario. La Internet no puede ser una amenaza a la biblioteca salvo que la biblioteca solo sea proveedora de información en vez de promotora de lectura recreativa y de investigación.
    Las agencias lectoras y el desplazamiento de bibliotecas a zonas de sectores con menos recursos puede ser una alternativa. Otra posibilidad anti-cierre puede ser la participación comunitaria y el apoyo privado ante el tijeretazo presupuestario publico. Por último
    la inclusión del préstamo tabletas y artefactos para e-books puede contribuir a recuperar usuarios o a incentivar la llegada de nuevos.
    lectores. La lectura entre pantallas es un hecho. En cualquier caso dejarse morir sin más es olvidar las posibilidades de la pro-actividad

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