Posted by: Witch Doctor | February 6, 2011



Over the past few days The Witch Doctor has been thinking about libraries.

They are very special places.

She remembers her first trips to the local library with her father. These were always evening trips and the sun was always shining low in the sky. It seems she was only taken to the library on the balmy summer nights, never in the rain which was so common in that part of the world. So maybe that’s one of the reasons she loves libraries so much. The old library house was situated on top of the hill in the park. As we walked through the trees my father would meet neighbours wending their way up and down the hill with two or three books under their arms. They would chat for a while and the very young Witch Child  would quietly listen to what was being said during these encounters although she didn’t understand much of it.

The Witch Doctor would have been little more than a toddler then. She remembers the ancient, grey, former mansion that housed the library. She remembers the very special musty smell that must have been a concoction of the domestic activities of generations gone by, of old plaster walls and the books that lined them.

She can remember the silence and the peace there.


Later on, she used to wend her own way to the children’s department of that library and after moving house discovered this new village also had a library. It too was situated in an old mansion house. To this day she still walks past the rusty gates and crumbling narrow stairs, now overgrown with trees, that she used to climb twice a week to replenish her supply of books. She remembers the two woman librarians as if it was yesterday.

Libraries were an essential part of life.

It was as simple as that.

So, it took The Witch Doctor by surprise to learn that large numbers of libraries are to be closed. It seems a strange time to close libraries. When a recession and unemployment bites, there is no spare cash to buy books and at these times libraries take on a new lease of life. We hear a lot about communities nowadays. Libraries serve as a hub of community life.

To The Witch Doctor, closing libraries seemed ugly if not sinister. Closing libraries? Is it that much different from burning books?

So, what’s going on?

Well, it seems it is nothing to do with HMG. No, nothing at all to do with them! It is to do with cuts. Less money would be going to local authorities and THEY have to decide what services to cut.

Apparently one counsellor asked that if libraries were not cut then what were they to do? They would have to cut services to the elderly or youth services, he whinged.

Are libraries not services to the elderly and youth?

The Witch Doctor wondered if the “leaders” in local government didn’t read books.

This, she thinks, is a distinct possibility as they trip their way round numerous committee meetings and leadership courses.

Perhaps they were never taken to libraries by a parent on warm balmy nights.

And then she came to another conclusion.

This was The Big Society being forced upon us all. They wanted libraries to be a volunteer service.

Hey, The Witch Doctor has just remembered something from the dim and distant past.

Boots the Chemist used to run a lending library in the city.  As well as her local library, The Witch Child was a member of this library too. She has no idea how it operated, but it is likely there was some kind of membership involved.

So The Witch Doctor is now coming to the conclusion that the government does not intend that libraries are closed, or books are burned, but that libraries are run by volunteers.


Maybe they want them run by the private sector employing cheap labour in the form of the unemployed or pensioners.

Cheap labour boosts profits.

Free Labour boosts profits more.

Maybe Patsy who is now a big wig in Boots will volunteer to dust the shelves in a 21st century edition of Boots Lending Library.

Who knows what the future brings?



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  1. I too loved the library. I even got chucked out of it at one point for laughing while playing a chess game with my friends!

    Our library has just moved out of its old building into a spanking new health centre in the middle of Coatbridge. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the old building; it’ll probably get sold for flats or something.

    I think they’re so important and it’s important to have someone who knows what they’re doing in the place. Our library wasn’t that big, but whoever had picked the books knew what they were doing; for the music section they were some of the best texts going (and you did need to read these ones to know.)

    The value of books was brought home to me when I went to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Clothes are six times cheaper there than they are here, but books cost the same, so that means a book for a Malaysian is six times more expensive than it costs us. So a £6 book here would cost £36 there. It’s a way of supressing information. You cannot have a democracy without informed comment and you cannot have informed comment without knowledge.

    • “It’s a way of supressing information. You cannot have a democracy without informed comment and you cannot have informed comment without knowledge.”

      Julie, you are so right. Where would be all be without books? Perhaps they are deluded into thinking the elderly and infirm and the unemployed youth will all have iPads or Kindle Readers?

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