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Commentary – The library must rediscover its specialness

guardian – Simon Jenkins – Libraries are dying – but it’s not about the books

“Public libraries have had another bad year. They are like churches and local railways. People like having them around, and are angry if they close. But as for using them, well, there is so little time these days. The latest Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy figures on library closures are dire. In the past five years 343 have gone. Librarian numbers are down by a quarter, with 8,000 jobs lost. Public usage has fallen by 16% and spending by 14%. Book borrowing is plummeting, in some places by a half. The admirable children’s laureate (and cartoonist) Chris Riddell said during the latest campaign for libraries in November that, “if nurtured by government, they have the ability to transform lives. We must all raise our voices to defend them.”…Ever since the days of Alexandria, the library has been the palace of the mind, the University of All. The internet has removed its monopoly on knowledge, but cannot replicate its sense of place, its joy of human congregation. The Victorian tycoon Andrew Carnegie, first great patron of public libraries in Britain and America, dreamed of one in every town and village. His vision awaits renaissance.”

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