Not Quite ’68

Well, my forced exile is now over. My cable provider finally got around to wiring my flat up to the grid. So now I have internet to get blogging and hundreds of tv  channels to distract me from blogging. Let’s see how that goes.

Because I’ve been unable to blog regularly for a while, I’ve a glut of subjects to write about. I could pick from the Fabian conference this weekend gone, or the polls putting Labour out in the lead on a fairly consistent basis, or changes to the NHS, or Nick and Dave’s continued love-in. So much choice, so little time.

However, the biggest story throughout my absence continues to be the protests against the Government. There have been marches on Whitehall, sit-ins in buildings, the shutting down of businesses who avoid their tax obligations. So much choice, so little time.

The protest that has caught my attention is the one reported by the Independent on Sunday. It’s the story of a protest not about student fees, hospitals, taxes, or even the fact that Nick Clegg is morphing into David Cameron. This one is about the wonder that is our public libraries.

Libraries which, for many years, have provided pleasure, education, and escape for people of all ages. Not to mention a warm, dry place for the local wino population to stay during the day. Come on, admit it. Every public library you’ve ever been in had a tramp asleep in one corner or another. And we’re all ok with that because it was the price you paid for access to more books than you could read. The magic of escaping to strange worlds through wardrobes, or immerse yourself in Victorian London by delving into Dickens, or the sheer joy of the use of language in Shakespeare’s works.

So what are the users of Britain’s libraries doing? Are they taking to the streets, doing battle with the kettling of the local constabulary? Are they grabbing control of the buildings and staging sit-ins? Are these well-read people egging MPs while shouting intelligent quotations?

No. They’re doing something even more awesome. In the town of Stony Stratford, near Milton Keynes, the local library (which has 16,000 volumes) has had all its books borrowed. Local campaigners urged members to take their full 15-book entitlement and keep them for the alloted week.

Not exactly 1968, but probably very effective nonetheless.


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