Voices For The Library reported that over 10% of U.K. public libraries are under threat. Northamptonshire in England is currently experiencing this threat of the libraries being shut down. The Banbury Guardian reported that the closures are part of the package made to save £9.6m in Northamptonshire. According to the BBC, the council began their first week of meetings out of twelve to commence consultation about the plans. So far, under plans, twenty one libraries could become community managed and fifteen larger libraries will remain under the management of the county council.
Well-known writer and film-maker of V for Vendetta and many other pieces, Alan Moore comes from Northamptonshire and remains in love with the county, the town. Moore has spoken out as such an influential figure from Northampton. NQ stated that Moore declared that he had “had enough” when he had heard of the council’s proposals. He has been a campaigner on the behalf of the library services for years and has recently accused the council of turning the place into a “degraded, devastated wasteland.”. As a result, Moore has said that he will not go ahead with plans to shoot a TV series in Northampton if the plans are followed through.
After all, libraries are a place for many, filled with resources. An absence of libraries will have such an awful effect upon the community. Graham Croucher spoke to the BBC and said: “You can get your blue badge, bus pass, everything you can get at this library… It’s a safe haven”. In libraries one can access the internet, books and advice. It is in libraries, too, in Northamptonshire, that Health and Wellbeing sessions often taken place. There are support groups that use the libraries to meet up. Not to mention that jobs will be lost. Councillor Danielle Stone (leader of the Labour group, Abington and Phippsville) spoke to the Daventry Express and said “In recent years libraries have become more than just borrowing books” that “…many things have been placed inside them such as universal services for children, training courses, birth and death registration and so on. So libraries have taken on more and more but now they are being threatened with closure.” Stone considered the situation to be “dark.”
It is bad enough for a community when their universal services for children, courses, places for registration and place of sessions for wellbeing and support is being shut down, but one must remember too that these are libraries. A place where books are stored to learn from. In their absence, it can become harder for people in the community to access books that they cannot perhaps afford to just buy. A library and it’s borrowing system is as important as the services the place can provide. Arguably, the people in the community lose their power if they cannot afford to buy books and there is no place to borrow them from, especially if people in the community cannot afford the internet either at home.
NQ reported on Alan Moore’s distress over the situation in regard to how the absence of libraries could lead to an increase in ignorance.
“Why would anyone do that? [close twenty-one out of twenty-nine libraries]” is what Moore questions. “Why would anyone increase the levels of ignorance and illiteracy because that is what this will do. Why would anyone do that unless they were hoping to increase their natural electorate? People who think: It is actually better for us if everyone is not very keen on reading, not very well informed about things and will just respond to any headlines that we care to serve them. I can see that makes for a much more malleable population…” Moore continues.
Although Northamptonshire and their libraries are under the firing line currently, this is an issue across the U.K. The Guardian reported that the U.K. lost over 200 libraries in 2012. By 2016, over 340 libraries had been shut down, according to the BBC. More and more communities are becoming deprived of this place of learning and resources due to cuts. It’s becoming an increasingly common local issue.
Even with the community-managed libraries and mobile libraries that are supposedly to exist instead of the council led libraries that will and/or may be closing, there has been surmising about their survival long term. As, more volunteers will have to be called in to run the libraries. Writer Alan Gibbons spoke to the BBC and commented upon how it would exploit “people’s goodness and willingness to work”. Gibbons continues to add that he is in “favor” of volunteer work but “…relying on volunteers to provide a service that ought to be statutory is not a good policy.” He questions “What next? Are we going to rely on volunteer teachers because we can’t find new teachers because all the staffing levels in schools are going down?”. Gibbons said that this would be a “hollowing out of service”. He brands this “dangerous territory”. From what Gibbons speaks about in response to the consistent closures of libraries, and even their replacements of volunteer workers, we may at once fear an obsolescence of libraries and this is troubling for the many. It will affect the many.
Andrew Griffin once wrote for the Independent on the subject of the closing down of libraries in the past: “They’re dangerous, books, and perhaps more dangerous are the librarians that dare to give books out to children too poor and uncultured to know not to take them seriously. Libraries make people powerful — people who shouldn’t be powerful — and we’ll be weaker in untold ways without them.”
There is currently a petition to stop the closure of Northamptonshire community libraries led by Danielle Stone to prevent the loss of services.