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.
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