John Harris

Journalist & Author

In a country like Britain, obsessed with the now, libraries are a political battleground | John Harris

From library closures to relations with Europe, Britain is haunted by fear of cultural amnesia

Relative to our basic understanding of what a city’s main library ought to provide, it seems mind-boggling: 240,000 works of non-fiction, quietly taken from the shelves, and either given to other institutions or handed to a local company which “buy, recycle and find a second life” for old library stock – a polite formulation for a process that often results in books simply being pulped. The people in charge reckon the breadth and depth of their collection remains “good across all subject areas”, whatever that means. Horrified campaigners say what they have done is “morally reprehensible”.

Such is the cloud of controversy hanging over Manchester’s recently refurbished Central Library, and revelations that have come to light thanks to a Freedom of Information request. The story, reported in the Guardian this week, actually goes back to 2012, when the books’ disposal was first proposed, and an outcry led by writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage and Jeanette Winterson led to an apparent stay of execution. In retrospect, the city council’s pronouncements back then were as troubling as they are now: the books in question, it said, were “duplicates, outdated or otherwise obsolete”. Anyone halfway sentient will surely read those words and wonder: who decides? And how?

Precious things are now only a corrupted hard drive or system upgrade away from being lost, for good

For all their air of tweedy conservatism, the quintessentially modern political phenomenon might be Ukip

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 21st, 2015 at 8:04 pm and is filed under Guardian RSS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « The new special educational needs maze, where parents go back to the start | In ducking the TV debates, David Cameron displays a contempt worthy of Downton Abbey | John Harris »
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