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Whitstable Library: how long before they privatise it?
Dick Gaughan - Tom Paine's Bones (Recommended)
First of all I would like to put in a good word for all libraries everywhere, but particularly the one in Whitstable. It provides a fantastic public service, and is a genuine bargain to boot.
I go as often as I can.
You can read the newspapers for free. You can browse the internet. You can read up on local history and study a variety of reference works, some of them marvellously obscure. You can trace information. You can borrow books by your favourite authors, immerse yourself in wild west adventure or outer space, true crime or historical romance. You can learn a hobby or a trade. You can rent out CDs or DVDs. You can meet people. You can cogitate and contemplate. You can watch the world go by.
Best of all you can order any book from any library anywhere in Kent and it only costs 25p; or from anywhere else in the country for only £2.00. I’ve been testing this particular service out, selecting a variety of different tomes to see what they can provide me with, while, at the same time, indulging my current obsessions.
So far I’ve been let down only twice. The first was a book by AL Morton called The World of the Ranters, about the loud-mouthed seventeenth-century religious anarchists of the same name (I‘m sure I was one in a previous life); the second was The Rights of Man by Tom Paine, possibly the most famous work of English dissent ever written. Certainly the most influential.
The World of the Ranters went missing in Herne Bay. In the end I obtained a copy from Bedfordshire. However, if you happen to have it on a shelf somewhere, let me know. I wouldn‘t mind owning a copy of my own.
As for The Rights of Man: this is a scandal. The only copy in the whole of Kent has gone missing, and the library service hasn’t been able to replace it.
It makes you wonder what other classic works of literature may be missing. I shudder to think. Maybe they don’t have Great Expectations or Macbeth either.
Of course, this is no fault of the Kent library service, but is simply indicative of the crisis in services across the country.
Library stocks in the UK have fallen by over 20 million in the last ten years. Eighty two libraries in Lancashire, Cumbria, Devon, Buckinghamshire, Cambridge and Hertfordshire are set to close.
I predict an attempt at privatisation within the next ten years. Like every other public service, libraries will soon be up for grabs. This is regardless of which party is in power. Let’s face it: these days anything that functions has to make a profit.
The trick will be to starve them of cash, watch the inevitable decline, then hand it over to private companies while quietly restoring public subsidy, but this time as profit for the investors.
It’s exactly what they did to the railways.
So expect a Starbucks franchise in your library in the not-too distant future, and a burger bar in the corner.
“Food for thought, brought to you by McDonald’s.”
You think I’m joking? It’s already started.
Sunday: 10.00am - 4.00pm
Monday: 9.00am - 6.00pm
Tuesday: 9.00am - 6.00pm
Wednesday: 9.00am - 6.00pm
Thursday: 9.00am - 6.00pm
Friday: 9.00am - 6.00pm
Saturday: 9.00am - 5.00pm
Whitstable Library: Contact details
31-33 Oxford Street
Tel: 01227 273309
Fax: 01227 771812