Friday, 8 June 2012

Whatever it is, it's still wrong - John Dougherty

Having overslept a little, I'm just packing to go off to the Wychwood festival in Cheltenham, to hang out in the Children's Literature tent with the likes of Philip Ardagh, Jamila Gavin, and our very own Elen Caldecott & Cindy Jefferies. So today's post is going to be a relatively short follow-on from my last one, with other people doing most of the talking.

The destruction of our library services continues apace, and there have been a number of developments over the past couple of weeks.

For me, the most shocking one is probably the revelation that Surrey County Council, having justified their plan to offload their libraries on to undertrained volunteers on the grounds of cost - "The initiative is part of the county council's aim to keep all 52 of its libraries open despite the fact other local authorities are closing branches across the country due to financial constraints" - have now blithely admitted that it will save no money at all. Not a penny. So why the hell are they doing it? Why have they wasted taxpayers' money on a court case? Why are they trying to downgrade such an important public resource?

It begins to look as if these closures are ideological. But whose ideology? Yes, most of the councils that are closing libraries are Conservative-controlled; but if we put this down to Toryism, how do we explain the disgraceful behaviour of Labour-run Brent Council, with their secretive, heavy-handed night-raid and acts of cultural vandalism?

Perhaps it's not ideology. Perhaps it's idiocy. Perhaps, as Philip Pullman says, our libraries are in the hands of people who simply don't understand them. Or perhaps all our major political parties are now infected by the same stupid, greedy philosophy which says that unless you can see exactly how much money something is making, it has no value.

Whatever the reason, something has to be done before it's too late, and the person who should be doing it is Culture Minister Ed Vaizey. But he's doing nothing. He can't even be bothered to reply to campaigners' letters.

So I ask again - what's wrong with Ed Vaizey?

John's website is at
He's on twitter as @JohnDougherty8.

His latest books include:

Finn MacCool and the Giant's Causeway - a retelling for the Oxford Reading Tree
Bansi O'Hara and the Edges of Hallowe'en
Zeus Sorts It Out - "A sizzling comedy... a blast for 7+" , and one of The Times' Children's Books of 2011, as chosen by Amanda Craig


Michele Helene said...

The really sad thing is that your post would not be out of place in a dystopian novel and then I remember it's real life and actually happening.

ruth symes said...

Hope you have a great time doing Wychwood. I did an event with puppets and paper butterflies there a couple of years ago. We got to stay in a tent for the weekend too - it was wild.