Libraries are supposed to be places where you go to gain knowledge. They were created to allow the disemination of knowledge and ideas to those who could not afford books. Now not all knowledge is science. Some knowledge can be gained by reading about how others do things, or reading poetry that makes you think about your situation. Books also provide pleasure through fiction which allow the reader to escape into alternative realities.
Until the invention of Gutenberg’s press books were kept by the elite. And they weren’t happy that the lower classes would be able to read such subversive items as The Times which published news about what the elite were up to.
But then as knowledge rapidly spread around the world it became the liberal thing to encourage reading.
But then it seems that too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing and they want to ban books again. The elite don’t think the lower classes or the less educated can handle themselves when they read childrens books that show racism. They think that such people will start rutting like rabbits in libraries when they read books like 50 Shades of Grey. So when the odd person complains about the content of a book and asks for it to be removed, the elite seem to jump at the chance at banning the book.
The person who complains is not less educated, they are just following the guidance of the elite who provide an example by deciding to ban books from libraries for spurious reasons.
If slightly erotic books and fairy tales can be banned from libraries, what other categories of books should be banned for spurious reaons? It could be argued that the following types of books should banned from libraries because they might corrupt or deprave readers. Such as
- Religious books
- Violent war bogs
- Books about criminals
- Books with murder in them
- Science books that allow the making of bombs
- Books about upper class women falling in love with groundsmen
- Books with blasphemy against any religion
- 43 other categories which I’m sure you can provide suggestions for
So should libraries allow erotic books to appear on their shelves. Should books about dangerous subjects such as explosive chemical reactions be allowed in libraries. And books that say that Nazi political thought is the one true path sit alongside those of Marx? In my view yes. If libraries are to continue to exist, then they cannot ban anything. They can put restrictions on the lending, such as being over a certain age for the erotic books, but they can’t ban them. They can also keep track of which books you have borrowed, details of which can be given to police when legally requested. But they can’t ban books.
If libaries are to carry on banning books for weird reasons, should they be shut down because they are not carrying out their original remit?
Even though I’ve just seemed to argue for the preservation of libraries, all I’ve said is that they should be consistent with the reason for their creation. But I would say that the time of the library has come to an end. Not all libraries, but public lending libraries. Just like wax cylinders got replaced by vinyl and then by CD and then by MP3, and just like the old cotton mills of the North which have fallen into disrepair, sometimes somethings come to a natural end.
Libraries claim they provide a public service and are a necessary part of the Big Society, but the numbers of people visiting them are falling. The stats don’t say how many of the visitors visit for reasons other than to borrow a book, but I wouldn’t be surprised that it’s a signficant number.
When libraries provide facilities like internet access for free (or low cost), rooms for groups to have meetings, and times when children can be brought in to learn to paint/draw/write as an attempt to counter the falling numbers of book borrowers, then it’s obvious that the main purpose of lending books is disappearing.
So libraries are serving a small proportion of the public.
What they do is allow people to borrow books for free. Considering the cost of providing this support it could probably be argued that giving this small group of people an ebook reader each and vouchers to buy books off Amazon is more cost effective. Plus there would be less censorship.
Similarly, internet access could be provided with vouchers for any local internet cafe. Why should libabries be subsided to undercut a service provided by a business.
The actual buildings can be kept and continued to be used for the community purposes that they already provide.
But then all said and done I’m probably totally biased as I’ve not been in a library for nearly twenty years with one exception which was because I was looking for a reference book on local architechture.
Have any of you been to a library recently to borrow a book? Is the web a replacement for books with blogs replacing newspapers and ebooks replacing paper books?