Library Cuts Need Fresh Thinking

Media, Reading & Writing

This week, Brent council closed down six of its twelve libraries in order to save money, despite massive protests. Obviously you only need to be able to read pamphlets to work at Brent Council, but perhaps they could have saved the requisite amount by taking a collective wage cut. Of course, that will never happen, so what about more radical thinking?

Through much of the 20th century Boots the chemist lent out books. The Boots Book Lending service was established in 1898. It was usually on the first floor and was fitted with wooden bookshelves, chairs, tables and even notepaper and fresh flowers. Members paid a subscription and were able to borrow books, (light romances and whodunnits were the most popular). By 1938 Boots libraries were issuing 35 million books each year. The company liked to emphasise its reputation for providing ‘clean’ books.

If Waterstone’s and other bookshops did this, combining it into the space currently used by their coffee shops, surely they’d encourage reading and draw more people in?

8 comments on “Library Cuts Need Fresh Thinking”

  1. Roger says:

    they probably make more money out of coffee though

  2. Andy says:

    Seeing bookshelves in pubs a lot more. Any Wetherspoons pub will have a bookcase or two with a load of “pay by the yard” secondhand books in order to make up their corporate image, but a book is a book. The Blue Anchor off Chancery Lane is almost like a secondhand bookshop (spent most of an office party there reading a book on crime in London once) and the Broken Drummers Discworld group’s adopted pub, the Monkey Puzzle, has a shelf full of Pratchetts, mainly because when my now wife and I moved in together we had a mass of duplicates. The Costa in Croydon has a bookcase where you’re welcome to just take a book, but are encouraged to deposit as well. These places benefit by having books to hand because it encourages you to spend more time there and hence drink and/or eat there as well. Perhaps we’ll see and increase in informal lending here instead.

  3. Martha says:

    The most popular coffee spot in town has a whole floor to ceiling bookcase of second hand books in all four of the commonly used local languages. The man organising this is very happy with the sales. We ALSO have a very active multi-lingual library AND now a branch of a local Estonian bookshop has opened here on the island. The shelving of English language books has recently doubled. Clearly availability of books begets reading begets book-buying. When will (some) politicos ever learn?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The cafe where our Bookcrossing group meets has a bookcase and a shelf by the door where books are regularly left and just as regularly taken. Anything not chosen within our group is left on that shelf and it’s nearly always empty. There are often people reading over their meal, which pleases me as I wouldn’t dream of eating alone without a book on hand. People are still reading on the buses and train, too. Some of them are electronic but many have pages. Of course, I don’t know how many are Basic English. And I can think of half a dozen new/used bookstores in the area.

  5. Gretta says:

    Roger, that is just depressing. 🙁 I see Victoria Uni gets a (dis)honourable mention, though in all honesty I don’t remember that incident.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Yes, it is depressing and it has always gone on. Every year I looked at the school library shelves to decide what had to go. Criteria: not being in good condition, not being used, being out of date. All of those required me to examine the book in question and in the case of bad condition it might mean that I’d have to get a replacement copy. In the case of Out of date books, well, I often had to put on armour to defend myself from the teacher who claimed a “missing” book was the centre of a unit & I’d better find her a copy. What I wanted to say was, if you’re using a 30 year old book you should look at that unit, but what I did say was that I had a number of newer, more attractive and relevant books that she could use instead. Have you ever seen an otherwise adult person stamping their feet in in a temper tantrum when told that they could not have the book for their classroom?

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, and community libraries are not depositories for old copies of classics. Historical items for the community if there isn’t a museum, but not 1945 editions of Thomas Mann. I had a couple of heated discussions with my mother who was a 35 year volunteer in a village library.

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