October 8, 2018

Why fight for a library?

Joey Simons

A library, like any institution, reflects the values of the society in which it stands, and the struggles of those who use it to shape it in their own interests. Glasgow’s municipal libraries, with the Mitchell at their head, have largely managed to survive the physical ravages of the city’s incessant attempts to destroy and rebuild itself. Yet today they are suffering death by a thousand cuts: slowly hollowed out as library workers are lost, and with them decades of knowledge and experience. Benefit claimants sit with heads in hands, struggling to complete universal credit applications within an hour’s computer time. Books, the time to read and think, are so many shredded pages. What are these places? Who built them? Who is destroying them? What contradictions crack their solid walls? Why save them? This is an imagined manifesto from those who have spent a lifetime in the Mitchell’s nooks and crannies, lost in a world itself being lost. It is a history of the Mitchell, and its first Chief Librarian. It is a call to arms issued by those who have substituted reading for reality, but wish to defend the past to preserve the future.

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