Are libraries important? We all have childhood memories of our local libraries. For me, I remember reading Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Hobbit for the first time. I borrowed them from my very small local library where the kindly librarian would even get books for me from the big library in town and return books there – none of which was in his job description!
That cherished memory serves to highlight how much more libraries mean than a mere transactional arrangement. Libraries are community spaces where all ages and backgrounds mingle. You can get help, access to information, find out what’s going on, talk to people, a quiet space to read or just think.
What is the future for Croydon’s libraries? Unfortunately, the Labour Party who run Croydon Council have officially bankrupted the borough. This means they have spent far more than they could afford and wasted huge sums on highly unsuitable schemes. And so they are cutting back on library services. Labour are cutting the number of days your libraries will be open by more than a fifth. It is a sad fact that Croydon’s libraries have only been saved by a 1968 law that prevents Labour from closing all the libraries. They believe half a million pounds of savings will be achieved through this devastation of library provision. But what about the cost of lost education for Croydon’s youngsters? What about the cost of lost opportunities for Croydon’s residents? Why the rather narrow, mealy mouthed calculation, which doesn’t take into account the wider costs to Croydon’s people?
This is the consequence of a failed administration. There will obviously be the horror of headline figures like the £1.5 billion of debt that Labour have racked up. But it’s the ordinary, everyday things that get hit. Our bins aren’t be emptied in a timely manner; we’re seeing more fly tipping; pot holes aren’t being repaired; the grass on verges and parks and, unforgivably, cemeteries is left overgrown. And now our precious libraries are being attacked – the very heart of the community.
I think back to that kindly librarian of my childhood. I’m saddened that it is helpful, service-oriented folk such as these who will no doubt pay a personal price for Labour’s awful mess.