Thursday, March 3, 2011

For the Love of Libraries: Shelves Emptied of 16000 Books

Economies all over the world are suffering and being forced to cut or even eliminate services. Public libraries are on that list of cuts in many places. Last month I heard a story on National Public Radio that was both upsetting and uplifting.
The library in a small town near London, Stony Stratford, was being threatened with closure (along with 400 others in Great Britain). A Facebook campaign suggested that, as a gesture of their support for their library, every library user check out the allowed number of books. The shelves of Stony Stratford’s library were quickly emptied of all 16,000 volumes. The books were checked out at a rate of about 375 an hour, it was estimated.

An army of authors and other concerned library patrons traveled throughout the country, holding demonstrations against the closures. Children’s book author John Dougherty was quoted: “If you lay off your staff and sell off your library buildings, then when the good times come you have nothing.”

British author Philip Pullman spoke on the attempts to replace librarians with volunteers. This is at issue in many communities, so Pullman’s comments are timely for an American audience as well. “The librarian is not simply a checkout clerk whose simple task could be done by anyone and need not be paid for. Those who think that every expert can be replaced by a cheerful volunteer who can step in and do a complex task for nothing but a cup of tea are those who fundamentally want to see every single public service (shut down).”

The point of all the British demonstrations was to voice the importance of their library, their need for it, their love for it and what a void its closure would leave in their community. This protest received global recognition, which speaks both to the interest and the concern of people everywhere when libraries are threatened, and the lengths to which people will go for what they believe is important. I have been following their campaign and recently read that due to the efforts of Stony Stratford library patrons (and those who championed their cause) their efforts paid off, and their library has been given a one year reprieve.

We need to support our libraries. On March 8 there is a chance for voters in the City of Los Angeles to save city libraries from further cuts and restore eliminated services (without raising taxes) by voting yes on Measure L.


  1. Yes! We need to support both public libraries and our school libraries. Too many school districts think they are saving money buy eliminating the librarian and replacing her with techs, who only need high school degree!
    I wish they would read the research done by Keith Curry Lance and others who found that school children improved reading and literacy skills when there was a professional librarian in place with a well-stocked library.

  2. Terrific blogpost! Here's another great way to support libraries worldwide: BUY books (new and used) from Better World Books, an online retailer who contributes big bucks to literacy groups around the world, saves books from landfill, and makes big efforts to recycle and resell library stock that has been pulled as "discards." check out their activities at Not only are they 'green' and book-friendly, they have FREE shipping.

  3. Great post! Three cheers for libraries and Happy Anniversary to Out of the Paintbox!

  4. Wow! what great suggestions! Hurray for libraries of all kinds, and hurray for the passing of Measure L in Los Angeles. Long live libraries. Long live (real!) books!