Libraries: an anachronism?

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.

8 thoughts on “Libraries: an anachronism?”

    1. Now Tim I would take this as an innocent query from anyone else, but from you..? As a successful businessman I’m sure you know quite well what neo-liberalism is but I am more than happy to debate/discuss this. I’ll take you at face value for the moment and rather than reinvent the wheel quote from Wikipedia:

      • Neoliberalism[1] is the resurgence of ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism beginning in the 1970s and 1980s,[2][3][4] whose advocates support extensive economic liberalization, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy.
      • The usage of the term had shifted. It had not only become a term with negative connotations employed principally by critics of market reform, but it also had shifted in meaning from a moderate form of liberalism to a more radical and laissez-faire capitalist set of ideas.
      • Neoliberalism also represents a set of ideas that are famously associated with the economic policies introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom and Ronald Reagan in the United States.[2]
      • Today the term neoliberalism is mostly used pejoratively as a general condemnation of economic liberalization policies, such as privatization, open markets, and deregulation.[7][8] The transition of consensus towards neoliberal policies, and the acceptance of neoliberal economic theories in the 1970s is seen by some academics as the root of financialization with the Financial crisis of 2007–08 claimed to be one of the ultimate result

      For me it finds its most negative expression in agreements like TTIP and CETA…but that’s a whole other debate!


      1. I didn’t have to go to the library ( I’m not sure if it will be open this afternoon

        But – as you did with my last question – I was able to look on Wikipedia : TTIP is the proposed Translantic Trade Investment Proposed programme – CETA is a similar proposal between the EU and Canada

        Perhaps libraries really are an anachronism after all – in terms of librarians answering questions like that

        In terms of having books for people to read – they are still needed and important – but without political claptrap to surround them


      2. I think what you regard as political claptrap I regard as political engagement. In terms of not answering the question I chose not to as I am not your personal librarian.


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