Monday, 4 April 2016

Fighting for the Library

Here is a heartening story of a community resisting the closure of a much-loved public library. The Carnegie in Herne Hill - one of some 550 in Britain built with money donated by the great philanthropist Andrew Carnegie - is a handsome building, inside and out, the very model of a golden-age public library: you can take a look around it here. Lambeth Council's plan is, they say, to close the library temporarily in order to transform it into, and reopen it as, a 'healthy living centre' (Lord save us). How they could do this without gutting and thereby ruining the original building (does it look like a potential 'healthy living centre' to you?) I have no idea. Nor do I see how such a move could 'generate savings'. The protestors, who are driven by a genuine affection for a highly-valued community resource, have made it very plain that they don't want a 'healthy living centre'; they want their library, as it is and where it is. I hope they win - and I'm sure Andrew Carnegie must be rolling in his grave.
 My own local library suffered a similar fate, but in a different form. The library building - a very charming specimen of Edwardian 'Queen Anne' - was sold off, and the library relocated into an expanded Leisure Centre, where it has the air of a face-saving afterthought, sharing space with the swimming pool, gym and indoor sports hall, and seeming pretty insignificant in that loud and sweaty environment. Nowadays 'healthy living', it seems, trumps the life of the mind.

1 comment:

  1. It would seem that public libraries are joining public toilets in the endangered species corner created by the 'savings generation' department, yet one more piece of business-speak foisted upon the commercial sector by 'consultants' (and rapidly discarded, I might add.) Then adopted with enthusiasm by the public sector, joining those other smoke screen phrases such as 'on budget and on time.'