Thursday, 9 October 2008

Cultural Vandalism - Just Because They Can

Libraries could install coffee shops, book shops and film centres, under new government proposals to make them more user-friendly.

Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, will launch a consultation on changing the face of libraries which he believes are out of touch.
Really..? ‘Out of touch’ with whom…? Does anyone wonder when Andy Burnham (or anyone in his circle of friends and advisers) last set foot in a public library?
Mr Burnham will tell the Public Library Authorities conference in Liverpool libraries must "look beyond the bookcase and not sleepwalk into the era of the e-book."

While English libraries attract 288 million visitors a year, book borrowings have fallen by 34 per cent in the past decade and 40 libraries closed across Britain last year.
And that’s purely because people are afraid to go in case someone might say ‘Shuush!’, is it?
Mr Burnham will say: "The popular public image of libraries as solemn and sombre places, patrolled by fearsome and formidable staff is decades out of date, but is nonetheless taken for granted by too many people."
I never saw my local library (when I used it as a child and as a student) as a ‘sober and solemn place’; it was a quiet place, yes, but then it was a haven of quiet, a place to browse and read unhampered by conversation, traffic noise, canned music, disruptions – all the things that Andy Burnham seems to want to bring into this place:
He will also say: "Libraries should be a place for families and joy and chatter. The word chatter might strike fear into the heart of traditionalists but libraries should be social places that offer an antidote to the isolation of someone playing on the internet at home."
‘Libraries should be a place for…chatter’…. Wow!

The disconnect there is staggering – aren’t there enough places already where you just can’t get away from other people’s noise, conversation, music? We have to put up with selfish louts listening to rap on their mobiles at top volume on the Tube and buses, now this cultural void wants to encourage it in the library as well? Sod that!

Not to mention encouraging people ‘playing on the Internet’! Now, I like a good Internet browse as much as the next person, but the thought of coming across people playing YouTube videos or giggling out loud at LolCats in my library doesn’t impress me much. Not to mention what the porn-browsers are likely to be doing…

This incarnation of Labour are the party of mindless ‘progress’ – always moving ‘forward’, yet inevitably utterly ruining what has been built by other, better people, and never quite understanding (or caring) why.
Tim Coates, the former managing director of Waterstones however criticized the potential plans.

He said: "This ought to be about getting more reading books, particularly for children, not about turning libraries into fish and chip shops."
You old stick-in-the-mud, Tim. Don’t you know you must move with the times? You’re just a former shopkeeper, fancy criticising a progressive colossus like the Secretary of State for Culture!

I’m reminded, reading this, that Damilola Taylor met his end at the hands of violent, undisciplined, ‘do as you want regardless’ savages after visiting his local library to read and study quietly in his quest to learn and improve himself. This moron would like to see fewer Damilolas visiting public libraries, and more socially-incontinent types like his killers, those who can’t see why they shouldn’t listen to loud music on their mobiles, talk loudly and scream abuse if it pleases them, and to hell with anyone else.

That a man so lacking in the basics of, well, anything can be a ‘Secretary of State for Culture’ shows Nu Labour for what they are – empty suits, progressives in the debased, pejorative sense of the word. Truly, people who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing…

9 comments:

Gordon said...

Burnham is an idiot, I still worry that he's seen as a potential labour leader. Maybe they should think that possibly the reason fewer people visit libraries is because so many of them leave school barely able to read and so not really enjoying books. It makes no difference if these become e-books (and I'm yet to be convinced these will take off: mp3s worked well because you could get a couple of tracks - how many people want to download chapters 2 and 8 of a new book?). My library in Preston is great. They open until 7pm three days a week so I can get in after work when I need to. They have a coffee shop in the lobby already but I don't think that makes anyone visit the library more. Sorry, this was going to be a short post but I ended up ranting.

jezza clarkson said...

This is why some things (broadcasting is another) shouldn't be left to rampant commercialism, but should be reserved for culture which can't "pay its way" in managerialist terms, but which is valuable nonetheless.

The market has its place, but it precipitates a race to the bottom if left unchecked. The real "dumbing down", arguably, began when commercial TV began, or when Thatcherism was let rip & damn the consequences. This is what real conservatives said at the time.

Even as early as the 1930s, voices such as Aldous Huxley's were raised against the lowest common denominator, & they should be heeded now.

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

I think that Brunham hasn't been near a library in recent years. Libraries are now like this.

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

Oops I meant Burnham.

Stan said...

Interesting that he attributes book lending going down because people are put off by the sheer quietness of libraries - then points out that libraries aren't refuges of calm and quiet anymore. Which is also the very reason why I stopped going to my local library - well, that and the fact I was fed up by the way they stocked every leftist liberal bullshit manual from Michael Moore to Michael Foot, but carried absolutely nothing from the right side of politics other than "The Major Years" (lol), a biog of Thatcher and a couple on Churchill.

JuliaM said...

"Sorry, this was going to be a short post but I ended up ranting."

No need to apologise. If anything deserves a rant, this ghastly attempt at ruining the culture of libraries does!

"Libraries are now like this."

Yes, our local libraries (those that haven't been closed down, that is) have, where possible, accommodated internet areas and coffeee shops - cruicially, these have been in side rooms, though, out of the way of the main library.

"Which is also the very reason why I stopped going to my local library"

Yes, me too. That and I was able to afford to buy my own books, newspapers and internet access! They are still a lifeline for the out-of-work, elderly and hard up, though.

The BBC's local news last night interviewed an absiolutely ghastly librarian who was firmly behind Burnham's approach. She resembled nothing so much as one of those 'trendy' vicars, desperate to get 'down with the kids' and oblivious to the fact that she was driving all others away in disgust...

Anonymous said...

well, that and the fact I was fed up by the way they stocked every leftist liberal bullshit manual from Michael Moore to Michael Foot, but carried absolutely nothing from the right side of politics other than "The Major Years" (lol), a biog of Thatcher and a couple on Churchill.

If they did, though, those books would probably get stolen or destroyed. You know who by.

Letters From A Tory said...

And there was I thinking that the DCMS brief was never going to irritate anyone.

nbc said...

The popular public image of libraries as solemn and sombre places, patrolled by fearsome and formidable staff is decades out of date

The first details of the NL Re-Education camps are revealed.