Libraries should shout louder
01.01.70 | Katherine Rushton
So Dorset is having to get rid of 46 staff to help balance its accounts. It's also trimming opening hours at every library in the county, and cutting £117,000 from the books budget. Hardly a recipe for improvement.
But until a more radical shake up of the entire public library sector takes place, Dorset's proposals count as the lesser of two evils. The alternative as they see it is to close down the smaller branches altogether, and channel all investment into the flagship branches in the cities and large towns—which they will then dub as 'Discovery Centres', and 'Ideas Stores' to help bring in the youth.
The irony of this move is that it is often in those smaller, out of the way locations that libraries are most valued. The big city branches inevitably get more footfall, but the rural sites provide a community focal point and an essential source of reading matter in places that book retailers have written off as commercially unviable to go.
Of course the public library service should take a tip or two from bookshops—namely in terms of decor, comfy seating areas and face-out displays—but they should also celebrate their differences. Libraries are in places that other book-purveyors don't reach. They can also be trusted to highlight the books they love, rather than those books that receive the biggest marketing bungs. Press coverage about booksellers flogging retail slots provide libraries with an opportunity to shout about their points of difference.
Dorset has made a very difficult decision—and no doubt there are efficiency savings that could help claw back some of the much needed cash without having to hit the book fund quite so hard–but I for one applaud their decision to keep those rural libraries going.