Or so Jose Louis Borges imagined.
If Borges is looking down now from his bookish paradise on my town of Doncaster, then I guess he’d be equating it with Dante’s eighth circle of hell, which houses, among other things, the souls of thieves, as our library service is being systematically stripped: a process that started long before the current round of public sector cuts.
One of my students, Olivia, alerted me recently to one of the most startling manifestations of this cultural vandalism. The number of qualified librarians employed in Doncaster Library Service (covering the geographically largest metropolitan borough in the country) has dropped from 26 to 2.
I just sneaked under the wire in completing a well-hidden consultation survey that finishes tomorrow, on the archaic council website, having only discovered it thanks to the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign.
As a teacher I regularly encounter students who are unable to access at home the online resources I (and many of their classmates) take for granted. I advise them to go to their local library where internet access is free. I regularly have students who are wanting to pursue language investigations or extended projects on topics that require material unavailable in the school library. I advise them to seek the expertise of the information professionals at their local library.
For many of them, such advice is already futile as they are likely to find the door of their library closed at the sort of times a student is likely to be able to access it.
Council budget cuts are sadly inevitable, and libraries are a soft target. But the softer the target, the more damage is done when it is hit.
(So: use your local library and get involved in the Save Doncaster’s Libraries campaign.