Tuesday, January 25, 2011

You Can't Shut Down My Library - I've Checked Out All the Books

(Photo Is Not from Isle of Wight - representative only)
Are you one of those unfortunate book lovers whose library might soon be closed due to county or state budget cuts?  Well, you might try to wake your neighbors to the threat by doing what these folks on the Isle of Wight did last weekend.

According to the BBC's Peter Henley: 
...The latest idea on the Isle of Wight was a mass borrowing - users taking out their maximum number of books.

On the island this is a rather generous 30 titles per person, and by emptying the shelves they seem to have hit a nerve.
Now the Library service is keen to re-assure people that the libraries are still open, though it seems there are some shortages:

"While some sections, particularly adult fiction and children's picture books have been particularly popular among protestors, there remain plenty of other titles available." (library spokesperson)

I suspect some of those opposing closure will want to hang on to the paperbacks that they've liberated, just in case. On the Island they're planning to move from eleven libraries to just two - with improvements at Ryde and Newport, an on-line and mobile service and helping volunteers to run extra services.
I'm still trying to figure out exactly how this helps the cause of library patrons, though. Is the sight of all those near-empty bookshelves supposed to shock library users into becoming more vocal in their protest of library cuts? Is it maybe supposed to remind library employees that they will be out of jobs if the shelves stay bare? Or is it more like a run on a failing bank when everybody rushes in to get some "stuff" before it is all gone?  Is it all of the above?

I suspect that the protestors have already succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. People are talking about them all over the world - and, most importantly, about the potential cuts to their library system. A little pressure on public officials to do the right thing never hurts, especially when it comes from public exposure like this.

I do love the fact that these people are doing something to bring attention to the probable library closings facing the Isle of Wight.  Of course, even those wanting to do the right thing for the island can only do so much.  If the funds to keep the libraries open are not there, they are just not there.  It might be time for the island's citizens to dig a little deeper, a case of putting their money where their library books are.

Good luck, guys.  We're pulling for you.


  1. This is a little bit of a touchy subject in my neck of the woods. Our main library used to have a wonderful location downtown with lots of character and tons of books. About 15 - 20 years back they decided they wanted a modern building and built a somewhat extravagant building with a lot of wasted space. They moved about half of the books they had to the new building and did who knows what with the rest. Now about 3 years ago, they did a $350,000 renovation of the new building which by no means needed it. Less than 6 months after the renovation they started crying and saying they needed more money and have tried to get a levy passed multiple times with no success. They have alienated the patrons through the wastefulness they have exhibited over the years and now want us to bail them out. They have closed two of the four smaller libraries and have announced plans to close one more. It's tough to take a stand on the spending issue at the expense of losing libraries, but from what I've seen, the community as a whole is pretty much against giving them any more money. I think they will tighten their belts like the rest of us and carry on.

  2. I agree that the unnecessary building/renovation schemes that have sometimes taken place have put a strain on certain library systems. A beautiful library is nice, but the most important function of a library is to provide books for those of us who read so much we could never afford to buy everything we read.

    The Isle of Wight protest may make some potential sites of closure reconsider the importance of libraries. I certainly hope so!

    Our own library appears to be doing fine. It is a relatively new building, but it is always full of patrons. Finding a parking place is an occasional problem, so hopefully all will be well. It is the major source of my reading material, and I don't know what I'd do if it closed!

  3. As I understand it a library is judged by it's circulation and volume of books being checked out so I think this is why the town banded together to do this. I read about this and just thought it was sad that they all weren't patronizing the library all along.

  4. I hear you, Andy. When bureaucrats waste our hard-earned tax dollars it is hard to say let's increase the budget or raise the tax rate to make things better...even for public libraries.

    My county library is cutting back both on open-hours/days and the number of payroll hours it runs. I don't know how they get anyone to do this job when they start slashing their wages this way. And it's not like there's not a huge demand at the branch I go to - the parking lot often has 250 cars in it, usually with more than one person per car inside. It's packed on Saturdays now.

  5. Jenclair, I totally agree. I don't go to the library because of the building or its fixtures. I go because it is filled with books that I can't afford to buy on my own, or ones I stumble across during my browsing hour on most Saturday mornings.

    I have been in some amazing libraries, both in the U.S. and the U.K., that were nothing to look at and were even uncomfortable. But they were libraries and I enjoyed each and every one of them.

  6. That theory does make sense, Kathleen, but I still wonder if it was a bit like a run on a failing bank once it gained momentum in the community. :-)