Running up to the elections

As we enter the run up to the May 2010 elections, we are bound to hear lots of good news stories and be impressed with meeting the politicians. It is a well-known phenomenon that, as politicians claw their way up their particular greasy pole, they become increasingly divorced from reality. Their contact with ordinary life is restricted to a very few hours per week and they begin to live more and more in a fantasy land containing only other Westminster-village virtual people. Of course, part of the fantasy is that they all believe that they are in close touch with their electors. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that nonsense and wrong-footing abounds.

It is the nature of adversarial politics that everything is viewed as a black and white issue. In real life, most issues are actually shades of grey and the library is one of those. If the argument is about what should go on in large, modern libraries only, there would be some sense in the suggestions that are propounded.

The vast majority of Britain’s public libraries are more friendly institutions than the large monuments to civic pride that politicians and librarians love. However, they are also small and elderly, suitable for their original purpose of housing a largish collection of books, but little else. The addition of a few public-access computers into each of them necessitated considerable modification to their layouts and often resulted in the loss of bookshelves. Perhaps the politicians believe that the loss of bookshelves is a bonus and should be encouraged. Surely they cannot be that out-of-touch, or can they? Think on – the very same politicians who want to slash public spending and degrade the services on which ordinary people depend have been exposed.