“Almost everything I am I owe to libraries.  When I was a child there was no great libraries around, certainly nothing like this [gestures to the shelves of the Bodleian Library in background] but we did have this thing called the mobile library van that would come once a fortnight I think and I would wait for it like a child waiting for an ice cream van and I would get on and I would get my supply of books and they would last me two weeks and then when I was older I could get to Norwich, the local big city.  I would spend hours and hours and hours there.  It’s like the will o’ the wisp: one book lights another book which lights another one and another one.  I suppose libraries still for me have this extraordinary charge.  When I get  in one I feel this buzz.  It’s almost sexual .  There is something about the fact that behind all these bound copies there are voices, there are people murmuring, seducing you, dragging you into their world.  These are wonderful magical places and I suppose that if I have a campaign that I am really behind it is that of saving our libraries.  Because everyone surely has the right to access the voices of the past.”  Stephen Fry, Planet Word (39.20 to 46:00)


Stephen Fry said the above highly encouraging words in a segment on BBC2.  Starting “almost everything I am I owe to libraries”, he mentioned that his love affair started with a mobile library that used to go near his house.  When big enough, he went to Norwich Library –  “I would spend hours and hours there” and even said “Libraries still for me have this enormous charge … it’s almost sexual”. 
However, there was a dark cloud on the horizon. He continued “”But these days the library has another challenge: how to stay relevant in the digital age … “.  Discussing the matter at the British Library, he asked them if they moving away from storing “atomic matter” and they confirmed that to some extent they were, especially as some publishers were now printing journals only in electronic form.
After being asked the question “will the printed form become as moribund as the clay cuneiform tablet?”, Robert Darnton of Harvard University Library said printed books were “very much alive”.  He pointed out that more printed books were being published this year than at any other time … but also more electronic books.  However, Robert thinks that ebooks will not do away with printed books.  “One medium does not displace the other” he continued, saying that radio did not kill newspaper, television did not kill radio and the internet did not kill tv.  

The famously technophile Stephen said after this that…

“…I like to have a foot in both camps: the shiny new digital world of technology and the traditional path to knowledge which is embodied by the library.  I do hope that libraries survive.  They are more than just buildings in the same way that books are more than just print and paper.  As the poet, philosopher and political theorist John Milton said “books are not absolutely dead things.  They do contain a potency of life.  He who destroys a book kills reason itself.”  Perhaps that’s why, as we all know, one of the first acts of a tyrant is to destroy a library, to burn books.  They want to control literature.  The elitists want to hoard the power and the knowledge that is contained in books.”

This is music to the ears of library campaigners as Stephen Fry is one of the most popular people in the UK today.  If Stephen Fry and his 3,223,254 Twitter followers and other fans get behind libraries, it would be a huge boost.  One thing that the campaign in Brent and in other places has shown is the importance of celebrities to the media and to public interest.

The full text of the Stephen Fry segment on public libraries is available here.

In other news (see what I mean about the power of celebrity? This important infomration gets relegated to the end), Camden campaigners have announced that they will apply for a judicial review.

Things you can do today:
436 libraries (347 buildings and 89 mobiles) currently under threat or closed/left council control since 1/4/11 out of c.4612 in the UK, complete list below. Librarian professional body CILIP forecasts 600 libraries under threat (inc. 20% of English libraries).  The Public Libraries News figure is obtained from counting up all reports about public libraries in the media each day.


  • British Library attacked for Amazon link – BookSeller. The institution has link to Amazon on book entries.  “Waterstone’s m.d. James Daunt criticised the development, saying: “It’s disappointing to say the least that a very British institution is driving readers away from local libraries and high street bookshops. In an environment where high street booksellers and libraries face huge pressures, it is a shame that the British Library choose to give their endorsement to one aggressively commercial organisation.” 

“Getting rid of librarians because everything is online = getting rid of accountants because everyone has a calculator on desk.” Anne Barker. 

  • Should I go the fuck to the library? – Gothefucktothelibrary.com.  “Q: I don’t know what to do. Now that Borders™ has closed all its stores, I can’t sit around their store and read! How am I going to keep current on the latest teen vampire novels? A: Discerning readers like yourself might be prompted to GO THE FUCK TO THE LIBRARY.” etc.

Local News

  • Brent – The day the vandals moved in – Preston Library Campaign. “…and we vowed to avenge our library. We must stop the council from removing books and furniture from OUR library.” Several heart-rending pictures of a now boarded up library, including the one above.
    • Library campaigners plan to hold daily vigils – BBC.   “About 70 people, including local residents and activists, gathered outside the library at about 16:00 BST on Sunday for their first vigil, a spokeswoman for the campaign group said.”
    • Library campaigners promise vigils – Londonist.  “Campaigners from Brent Save Our Six Libraries are planning daily vigils outside Kensal Rise Library to stop Brent Council boarding it up”.
    • Message from Nairobi to library campaigners in North West London – Alan Gibbons.  “The conduct of your local representatives, especially the eagerness with which they tried to start boarding up the threatened branch libraries was scandalous. Would that they showed the same energy in establishing a thriving reading culture in the borough. I suspect that the local council’s failings shrink into insignificance before the gross abdication shown by the Culture Ministers Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey. After some hesitation one of their predecessors Andy Burnham ordered an inquiry into Wirral council. They should do the same in Brent yet they fiddle while Rome burns.”
    • Revealed: Brent Council executive salaries – Save Kensal Rise Library. Chief Exec earns £194k, nine other executives earn more than £1 million between them. 32 others may be on around £100k each.
    • Human shields prevent closure of public libraries – Gulf Times (Qatar).  Quotes London Evening Standard article on Brent.  [“Human shields”? Hmmm – Ed.]
  • Camden – High Court to review decision on volunteer-run libraries Camden New Journal.   “The Camden Public Library User Group (C-Plug) has instructed King’s Cross solicitors Bindmans to lodge an application for a judicial review, which means Camden may have to defend the way it worked out its strategy in a courtroom. C-Plug argues the council’s consultation process was flawed because questions given to library users about how budget cuts should fall were leading and loaded.”.  ““We have asked them to compromise and we also showed them how to make the £1.6million savings without putting any libraries at risk.”
  • Redcar & Cleveland – Hunt is on for mystery Saltburn novelty knitterGazette.   In a move eerily reminiscent of the Scottish origami artist, a knitter tied a scarf full of literary references outside Saltburn library.
  • Halton Lea – Library hosts 10th paranormal week – Runcorn and Widnes World. “A FREE Paranormal Week takes off every evening at 7pm in Runcorn’s Halton Lea Library from Monday, October 24. Now in its 10th year, this festival is full of unusual and fascinating events.
  • Suffolk – Pilot library plan in turmoil – Diss Express.   Stradbroke Library groups questioning whether to continue as Council makes things “needlessly difficult” over transfer or building (which needs repair and new heating system).
  • Walsall – Reading groups for book lovers – Bloxwich Telegraph.   “Groups tend to meet fortnightly or monthly and are held at various libraries across the borough. Clubs range from book reading groups to a poetry group and telephone book clubs for the blind and partially sighted and home library users.”