Saturday, 15 January 2011

Savonarola on a roller

Oh brother, where to begin with this one?

A quango chief has enraged campaigners fighting to stop the mass closure of public libraries by claiming they are the preserve of…

Break for channel identification coming up:

 ‘…the privileged, mainly white, middle class’.

Thanks for that Roy. Takes all the tension of having to guess out of it.

Roy Clare, chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, suggested dozens of local protest groups were out of date, commenting: ‘Public libraries will not be preserved by wishful thinking and aspic.’

They don’t seem to have been preserved by a multi-million pound quango such as The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council either.

See pages 34-38 of MLAC’s accounts for the exciting expenditure details.
Your tax pounds in aspic.
I especially advise you to bask in the heartwarming news that £9,993,000 of a total budget of £46,074,000 was spent on providing clear leadership and strong advocacy for the sector.
Given that the article is all about how libraries are being slaughtered by local councils, perhaps it would have made more sense if the MLAC had spend more than 21% of its total budget on talking to the powers that be in library finance, rather than squandering so much of it on, like, books and statues and stuff.

Almost 400 libraries nationwide are threatened with closure, and with half of councils yet to announce their plans the total could reach 800.
In some counties more than half of all libraries are set to close, with rural areas worst hit by the spending cuts.

Maybe 42% leadership and advocacy expenditure would have reduced the cuts to 300? Or 63% to 350?
Say, what is the coefficient of leadership and advocacy these days, anyway?

But this week in a controversial email to librarians, many of whom face losing their jobs, Mr Clare urged them to ‘nourish change and embrace development’.

We must pray - and I mean pray with all our might to the Source of all Non-Judgmental and Value-free Good in the world - that he really meant to write ‘nourish fair change and embrace sustainable development.’ 
I for one couldn’t live with myself if he wanted them to promote any other kind.

The MLA, which ‘promotes best practice’ in libraries, and Mr Clare’s £127,000 a year job are also being axed…,

So we can be sure that he has no personal agenda here and is simply offering disinterested professional advice while he still can contribute to the national conversation on libraries, museums and archives.

 …but campaigners who fear communities will be badly damaged by the loss of so many libraries have reacted furiously to his comments.

On another day, dear reader, having seen these words I’d be cranking up my why-oh-why do we listen to the vested public sector interests indignation generator to 11.
But this not that day.

Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the remarks were ‘a very cheap shot’.
He said: ‘Around the country campaigners from all walks of life are out petitioning and protesting to defend their libraries.
‘Groups other than the “white middle class” are well-represented because libraries serve the whole community.’

And here he is himself arguing for, well, for more or the same public spending on libraries and books. Consistent fellow.

The white middle class voted for the Tories the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party, and isn’t it a joy to think just how truly different things are going to be under the new regime? Well, they’re cutting the quango out altogether, but do you think the libraries are going to start ordering the good stuff with the money left over?
Me neither. Off to the debt it’ll go, or to buy mothball for Britain’s next Ground Nut Scheme aircraft carrier: no doubt to be called La Republique.

Mr Gibbons said the planned closures were ‘wholly disproportionate,…


They’re Israeli library cuts!

 …unnecessary and fail even to achieve the Government’s stated aim of saving substantial amounts of money’.

I have to say I can think of one £9,993,000 in particular that you might now bid for.

He added: ‘What’s more, some of the libraries targeted for closure have only recently been refurbished.
‘This is depressing in the extreme and utterly nonsensical.’ A spokesman for Voices For The Library campaign group, a head librarian who asked not to be named,…

“It’s the end of the line for you, Danny,” growled Patrick ‘Rennissance:Gra-Pef’O’Halloran of Cheshire County Council’s elite Culture, Education and Parks Services Enforcement Division to the cowering figure of Danielo ‘Dewey-Decimal Danny’ Scarpetti as the cultural cordon tightened around the renegade archivist in a dank, TLS-strewn downtown alley behind Waterstones on one cold, hopeless morning in January. “Throw the bar code labeller down and step away from the car.”
“You’ll never take me alive, G-man!” sneered the known library campaigner into a glare of massed headlights and iPads. “I’m not going back to that place; never again. You won’t put me in the Big Room With Big Books For Little Readers this time. You’re just going to have to shoot!”

… said he was ‘shocked and disgusted’ by Mr Clare’s comments.

One library under threat is in Hesters Way, Cheltenham, a deprived area…

Way to go, New Labour!
Thirteen years in power and you - and you alone - have made it possible to combine ‘Cheltenham’ and ‘deprived area’ in the same, non-science fiction sentence!

…where a significant proportion of the population is unemployed or on minimum wages. It is a hub of the community and provides the only access many have to the internet.
Campaigner Johanna Anderson, an academic librarian at the University of Gloucestershire, said: ‘We have been overwhelmed by support from people of all backgrounds.
‘What Roy Clare is saying is complete and utter nonsense.’
The most savage cuts announced to date are in the Isle of Wight, which is set to lose nine of its 11 libraries.

Most liberal moral statements begin with the phrase (either spoken aloud or implied) “If you really loved me, you’d LET me stick my -” , but it takes real commitment and years of almost intolerable  indoctrination to make yourself say ‘savage’ and ‘Isle of Wight’ in the same breath without bursting into laughter – at least, not since the Festival ended.

It’s easy enough to show one or either side is special pleading. Of course they are – they’re protecting their livelihoods here as is only natural, but in the only ways they know how – via politics.

Various conservative principles could be suggested for us to take sides about here.

Cultural conservatives:
It’s a good idea to provide people with something better and more uplifting than television to exercise their minds and life their spirits as they lead their working lives and spend their retirements. Having literature and history available for people to enjoy is just plain good. Bearing in mind what TV’s like these days, I’ve got to wonder whether methadone might be a better option for rural pensioners and the disabled prisoners of those enlightened inner-city housing blocks set amongst the multicultural paradises of freedom and lawfulness that our political class has built in a few short decades.
There’s not much of a point in living in countries and caring about them if you don’t recognise that everyone in them, however remote from the big cities ought to count for a little bit too above and beyond not getting them nuked – otherwise what’s the point of the Scottish Highlands or Anglesey or Norfolk or Hull?

Market conservatives: “Shut yo’ rap, you tax-whore. Amazon, EBay, Project Gutenberg and the second hand market can do most of the libraries’ work for you.”  
And that’s true for a lot of people a lot of the time. But, warning to free-marketeers, there are some places where Postman Pat just won’t go – not even to deliver that precious load of Penguin Classics that must get through.) Having surrendered in the culture wars, there just isn’t the will in our Tory Party to decriminalize the Inner City enough that the genuinely, not-making-it-up-even-Ayn-Rand-would-pity-them poor, disabled and weak can have much in the way of safe and easy access to reading matter. Or a peaceful place to read them. No-one else is going to clean up the streets so The Odyssey or Jane Eyre can arrive or be enjoyed in comfort if The Housing hasn’t provided them with comfort at home.

Pessimistic conservatives:
It’s not like libraries do much n the way of books now, what with them turning into cyber cafes and daycare centres for the mental and thee drunken once the night shelters kick out. And the employees of public libraries aren’t exactly what you’d call finely-tuned killing machines who can keep the noisy kids in check. No more grey-haired maiden ladies to shush the over-ebullient but respectful Workers’ Education Association members as they swop delighted anecdotes about The Faerie Queen or oohing and ahing at Middlemarch. And I’d like to see £12,000 a year Library Studies Graduate in Castle City’s central library try to hush a street crazy as he warms his feet in The Financial Times when it’s noon and he’s already drunk enough economy vodka to chemically castrate a white rhinoceros.

But that’s all yap.

The trouble for conservatives here, and for all the white, middle class people who pay the taxes to support all these people concerned and also for many of those folk who never read books or visit museums but pay the taxes for them anyway, is that throughout most of the Day Of The Cuts is that they don’t really have a dog in this race.

Libraries might indeed be worthy recipients for small, well-spent amounts of public money but this row isn’t about that. It’s about our owners fighting over a smaller pot of cash now that the Brown boom’s gone phut, and we stand or huddle like the small creatures in a dinosaur movie as the big predators crash about fighting over a rotting diplodocus carcass and pay no attention to the undergrowth people. The cultural Marxists who own us won’t ever think bad thoughts of the many, many £9,993,000s that have been spent over the decades on clear leadership and strong advocacy for their sectors up and down this land, and will never, ever consider all the tool-hire companies, building firms, marginal Greasy Joes and private care homes that no longer exist to employ people to do what other people actually wanted them to do in the first place. This is a bonfire of someone their vanities: not ours.

I’d go mad about it all – if the liberals and socialists hadn’t beaten me to it already.

Today’s definition of a conservative: someone who’s right about the world but who really, really wishes he wasn’t.


Edward Spalton said...

It is some years ago that Derbyshire County Council (then Labour-controlled) closed quite a few libraries which all happened to be in in Conservative-voting areas.

A Labour supporter wrote that this was quite right because rich Tories could afford to drive their cars to the remaining libraries.

Obviously, if you happened to be on basic old age pension you should not be so ill advised as to live in a ward that voted Conservative!

JuliaM said...

A good look at what libraries are actually doing with the money spent on them can be found here.

Suffice to say, it makes interesting reading. And then, the comments..!

North Northwester said...

Welcome ES, and thanks for your comment. Unamazing how ruthless much of the Left is about the actual miseries and discomforts of those who don't fit into their magic circle of approved victims and supporters. Remember Michael Moore puzzling why Al Qaeda attacked a city and a State that voted solidly Democrat on 9/11?

Julia, thanks again for your link.
And the Guardian thing. A right royal kicking she's getting, mostly. And the anti-cuts people; well, where do they think the money comes from in the first place?


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