Every time I walk into the local library I'm amazed. This isn't hyperbole. Here is a place, I always think, where a person can browse the aisles, pick any item of their choosing, and take it home. Like a store, only for free. It's radical. It's egalitarian. If libraries didn't exist and you invented them, you'd be called a hopeless romantic or a dangerous socialist. No wonder they're under threat.
In case you hadn't heard the news, we live in an 'unprecedented economic climate'. Or so says BC's 'Education' Minister, Margaret Macdiarmid. In such times, it seems, there is, ahem, 'reason to review all of the grants the Ministry of Education provides' including library funding. The business (the exact correct word) of government is clearly serious stuff, folks. How will we deal with such serious times? Will we cut corporate perks? No. Will we choke off funding to the MacDonald's-sponsored Olympic fiasco? No. Will we slash small town library funding? Yes! Now that's leadership.
Macdiarmid and her ilk will use the recession (caused in the first place by idiotic government policies that favoured business over people) as a pretext to cut funding for library programs such as Literacy, the BC One Card, Online Resources, and other programs. The cuts in funding will then become the responsibility of city government. One can only assume that poorer communities will be forced to cut services while richer ones (like Rossland) will somehow maintain through higher taxes and cap-in-hand library boards while our leaders trot off to Whistler. Viva democracy.
This is serious stuff. The kind of government that would keep the Olympics while cutting library funding is the kind of government that doesn't value democracy (Remember equality? Informed discussion?). The next time you're watching the idiot box and Gordon Campbell's or Stephen Harper's face appears, look deep into their eyes and ask yourself if these are men who would rather see libraries funded or be seen cutting a ribbon before their corporate masters in Whistler 2010. Do they value knowledge or money more? Decide what kind of men they are and then make your decision accordingly next election time when they come knocking with their talk about tax (boo!!) cuts (yay!!). In short, we all need to grow up and stop accepting the sort of false choices we're being offered here.
Cut library funding? Why not increase it? Why not constitutionally guarantee free access to books? Who is setting the agenda here? Plato famously said that 'the only alternative to persuasion is brute force'. Educated, informed people (the kind you find in libraries) use persuasion. People persuading one another in a public setting is called democracy. Greedy, ignorant people use force. Politically, they organize themselves according to different principles.
Keep all this in mind the next time you're heading into the voting booth. In the meantime, head over to the Stop BC Library Cuts web page and sign their online petition. Then grab your loved ones and head on down to Rossland's library to say a word of thanks to our library's hardworking staff and volunteers. Then take out some books.