I was following a twitter conversation about the potential changes to Bristol Libraries and campaigners were angry with a piece in the Bristol Post saying libraries are an anachronism. It’s not the first time that this ill-informed view has been aired and unfortunately it won’t be the last. Sometimes it’s from genuine ignorance of what libraries are and do and sometimes it’s an opposing ideological or political viewpoint to what libraries represent.
Rather than using facts, figures and stats (although they can be a useful weapon in the armoury of our arguments) my reply was one based on the principles that libraries are emblematic of. An acknowledgement that in the narrow neoliberal, consumerist society that many politicians and corporate interests are trying to enforce on us, libraries can indeed be seen as an anachronism, but one that represents the best of civic mindedness, and of which we should be proud and treasure.
Libraries are an anachronism, a wonderful, beautiful anachronism: a free space, with access to unrestricted thoughts and ideas, in a world of narrow minded gain and bottom line economics.
They create communities and build society in the face of selfish individualism. They promote tolerance and openness in the face of bigotry and hatred.
They educate, inform and entertain, all for free, at a time when the powers that be wish us all to be good little consumers, vacuous and unquestioning.
They are a symbol of a public service for the common good when the authorities want sell our public services to the highest bidder for private gain.
They are an anachronism in the eyes of an elite that want to dis-empower us, keep us down and ill-informed.
A philosophical anachronism from a different era when radicals and visionaries understood you created a more just and equal society by lifting, not demonising, the poor and vulnerable sections of society.
Libraries were and continue to be an essential part of the journey towards social equality.
Libraries are everything that neoliberalism and its acolytes undervalue and scorn and so should be everything that we love, cherish and fight to preserve.