Libraries: Suddenly, Icons Of The Left?

Lynsey Hanley (again) missing the point:

When Zadie Smith defends public libraries, you know that it’s not because it is fashionable to do so: it’s because, in her estimation, she owes her life to them.

Really? According to popular music, it’s possible for a DJ to save your life, but a library?

“When we were children, you’d never imagine that you’d get into a right/left argument about the purpose and use of a library. It seems extraordinary to me,” she said on the BBC.

“I really don’t find it a political argument,” she added. ‘”It’s about equality of opportunity.”

I thought the left believed in equality of outcome now?

Not everyone who uses public libraries goes on to become an award-winning novelist, but that’s not the point. Every day that a library is open there is also opened a window of opportunity for someone’s life to be changed.

A visit to the library sure changed Damilola Taylor’s, though not for the better…

Smith’s childhood aim, she has said more than once, was “to become middle class”, a state she equated with being free to do what she wanted, namely to live an easier life than the one she and her family knew.

Funny. Seems to me, these days, it’s increasingly the underclass who lead such lives, while the middle class toil away to pay for them to do so.

In 2010 David Cameron launched his “big society” idea with a speech that suggested that, like Marx, he really believed the state was on the verge of withering away. It was nothing he or his Thatcherite antecedents did – people really did have everything they needed to run things for themselves.

“It’s about people setting up great new schools,” he exclaimed of his grand project. “Businesses helping people getting trained for work. Charities working to rehabilitate offenders. It’s about liberation – the biggest, most dramatic redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street.”

And yet, strangely, for all his rhetoric and the left’s anguished screams and rending of garments, the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ has failed to materialise, government spending on vanity projects and pointless world grandstanding still carries on regardless…

As Zadie Smith observed in another recent interview: “Belief in the state – and in the very idea of communal responsibilities – has evaporated.”

Except it hasn’t.

People clamour for the state to do more and more and more every day, and not to ‘liberate us’ (unless it’s from the awful nightmare of having to take personal responsibility, that is..) but to make our decisions for us, for we are too stupid to take any responsibility ourselves.

It’s going to take far more than a few libraries to cure that.

17 comments for “Libraries: Suddenly, Icons Of The Left?

  1. September 24, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Oddly enough, many schools once had potentially ‘life-changing’ libraries – until the progressives got rid of the books and turned them into ‘Learning Resource Centres’ or ‘Interactive Research Stations’, which roughly translates as a handful of vandalised computers and some scruffy leaflets scattered over the tatty ergonomic seating.

    O/T but this might amuse you; a friend once asked if I had a copy of ‘White Fang’ she could borrow as her book group would be discussing it the following week.

    The day after the group meeting she returned it, rather sheepishly:” I got it wrong”, she said, “It was supposed to be ‘White Teeth‘”

    • September 24, 2012 at 6:11 pm


  2. September 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    I used to have the misfortune to have to reside* in the London Borough of Newham for a while and took a look at the main library in East Ham. All books that could have been considered critical to Islam such as Sir Richard Burton’s account of his 19th Century exploration of he Arabian peninnsular had been removed to avoid giving offence to the bearded savages.

    The Left don’t want libraries to be places where the customer can freely access information but instead to be places of leftist indoctriniation.

    *It’s a while since I resided in that Islamist hell hole and their library policies may have changed since then but then being Newham I don’t live in hope of any changes there.

    • September 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      The only changes there have been are for the worse…

      • September 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

        I visited there recently and for the original non Islamic residents especially the elderly the place is one of great fear. It’s also a place where people in some cases cannot even complain about their doctor without fear of reprisal. I found that the place in general had got worse.

  3. TDK
    September 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Belief in the state – and in the very idea of communal responsibilities – has evaporated.

    There are two disappointments here

    First, like many progressives she lacks the imagination to conceive of a community separate from the state. Everything has to be of the state, in the state, or controlled by the state. I doubt she is even aware of the fact that most Libraries can trace their origins to private initiatives, frequently those of the working class such as worker associations.

    Second, she fails to ask the obvious question as to why given the fact that spending has only been returned to levels introduced by the Labour Party since 1997, libraries should be cut at all. It’s not like they were a recent innovation. A cynic might imagine that civil servants faced with making cuts deliberately chose the items that would generate the maximum bad publicity.

  4. Mudplugger
    September 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Why is a library like an electric drill ? Well, nobody ever really wanted an electric drill, what they wanted was holes, the drill was merely the best available mechanism to get them.

    Same is true of libraries, they were only ever hardware supply channels for the software, i.e. the text and imagery contained in the books, which is all we ever really wanted – we never really wanted the libraries or even the books themselves.

    But now that the same ‘software’ can be provided through many different, more efficient and direct channels, it is valid to question the continued and expensive existence of public libraries. There will be squeals and anguish, but that’s progress, it happens, get over it.

    • September 25, 2012 at 5:38 am

      It does seem odd for the so-called ‘progressives’ to be the ones not to champion real progress for once, doesn’t it?

    • Greg Tingey
      September 25, 2012 at 7:57 am

      Hard-copy is still, often, the best way for information.
      Computer-interfaces are an extra, not a substitute.
      Remember we still have live theatre, even with movies, we still have movies even with TV we still have TV even with the Web.
      Errrr ……

      • Mudplugger
        September 25, 2012 at 8:52 am

        Hard-copy may indeed still be the preferred method for some ‘of a certain age’ to obtain information.
        My granny would still want to listen to Mrs Dale’s Diary on the Home Service, but that stopped when it was judged no longer value for its diminishing audience.
        The same will be true of hard-copy. Once the number of ‘buyers’, whether individual or institutional, reduces to the level at which production is not viable, the choice will be removed.
        At the moment, we are in the flux of change, having both new and old media formats available, but the market-place will ultimately resolve it in favour of the most cost-effective.

        • Greg Tingey
          September 25, 2012 at 12:38 pm

          BOTH will survive.
          Or didn’t you actually bother to read what I wrote?

        • Nixon Scraypes
          September 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

          The Ministry of Truth can delete a word here or there,a sentence somewhere else or disappear a whole book if it’s only in the digital miasmosphere.They have to take the hard copy and burn it.

        • David A. Evans
          September 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm

          I could download a .pdf of any book and still want to print it out and read it on paper.

          It’s so much easier on the eyes. Maybe that’s a part of being “that certain age”.

          Even four or five page scientific papers I will print out rather than read them on screen, sometimes because they’re multicolumn and require a lot of scrolling but mainly because it’s easier to read and refer back.

          For anything over a page long, give me a library anyday.


  5. johnnyrvf
    September 24, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    @mudplugger: Umm, I fried my 20 year old B&D and the column drill is a bit unwieldy to carry; if you are not wanting your hand held drill, I’ll take it off you. 😆

  6. Greg Tingey
    September 25, 2012 at 7:56 am

    VERY interesting.
    Here, the London Borough of What the Fuck (The capital letters should tell you where) …
    We USED TO HAVE a magnificent Carnegie Library. The building still stands, with an extension, even.
    But there are far fewer books in it than there were in 1964.
    Our local LieBour council ordered the removal & pulping of many thousand books (There was a minor local scandal over this)
    They don’t value culture or education, not really, only noce development contracts.
    The same collection of arsholes tried to close down William Morris’ childhood home as a museum, too.
    THAT got stopped by a national campaign.

  7. MTG
    September 25, 2012 at 9:07 am

    That the good librarians were life-changing, is nearer the truth. It’s a bygone time but their knowledge and guidance once had a colossal impact on impressionable youngsters.

  8. September 25, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I was a school librarian once – never thought I was saving anyone’s life though.

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