The current debate about library closures in Doncaster reminds me of a speech Bobby Kennedy once made about our preoccupation with global wealth, describing how it measures ‘the value of everything except that which makes life worthwhile’. Times are undoubtedly hard and I don’t envy the current cabinet having to make some very difficult decisions in order to balance the books. But politics is an exercise in choice and I believe the decision currently being made about Doncaster’s libraries is the wrong one.
However much we move towards a world lived ‘on line’ and ‘on demand’, the basic infrastructure of our communities remain an integral part of our lives. The gradual loss of churches, pubs and local shops has had a largely detrimental effect on the communities affected and the closure of local libraries only serves to make this situation worse.
The vision of village after village made up only of buildings containing people hunched in front of a screen ordering goods from a warehouse in another country would have sounded far-fetched even for George Orwell, but on our current course, it’s coming fast.
Moreover, a community that so visibly gives up on learning makes a profound statement to its future generations about a lack of hope and belief in them. Once libraries are gone, they won’t be coming back and countless children will miss out on the thrill of that first visit to the library and the realisation that a world of knowledge can be theirs.
Personally, I would cancel the roads budget and fill the potholes with sand for a couple of years if it saved the libraries – roads will eventually be replaced, but the aspirations of our children and souls of our communities could be lost forever.