Thursday, 20 January 2011

Gandhi...and the Friends of Stony Stratford Library

I love the idea of many people taking small actions to effect change.

Alright, so my 'A Penny for Them' campaign might not work - I have been roundly told on Twitter that I clearly know nothing about banking.

But I still love the Gandhi approach - where he encouraged India's poor to wear home-spun cloth instead of British-made textiles and led a massive march - the Salt Satyagraha - to make salt from the sea in protest against the British salt tax (and possibly peppercorn rents).

And, I know it's probably BAD and WRONG to compare some little old ladies* in Buckinghamshire with an idealogical leader of the developing world, but stay with me...

I wanted to share this story with you from last Saturday's Independent - basically the Friends group of a threatened library of Stony Stratford, Bucks, sparked off an online campaign which rallied together all the registered library-users in their town. Between them they managed to withdraw ALL the books over the space of few days. I LOVE the idea of this. It wasn't violent, it was threatening to any innocent bystanders, but it MUST have shown the local decision-makers the strength of feeling in the town.

Some comments after the article sneer that as libraries are a free service, it doesn't matter how many books are withdrawn " still costs the same to run them". This misses the point: as a local service paid for by council tax, the number of borrowers is of vital significance. Whatever additional services provided and whoever they're a life-line to, the value of libraries is still measured almost solely by the number of books withdrawn.

I'm doing my bit. I've got 22 books out at the moment. I'm not even sure that's legal.

So when did YOU last visit YOUR library?

*(other genders, ages and sizes are also available)


  1. Last week. My broadband broke down, so I went to use the computers there. Given the extra services offered, is there no measurement made of their use too? One can never get on a computer in Norwich main library, as teenagers have them constantly.

  2. I think my bosses would say that would be a measure of the need for public computers, not libraries per se. Aren't teenagers supposed to be in school or bed or hanging around on street corners mugging the defenceless elderly?

  3. It's Gandhi, not Ghandi. Might sound the same to those of us not used to Hindi nuances, but Ghandi may mean something very rude in Rajasthan.

  4. Thanks Vicus - I checked and STILL did it wrong (...obviously some usage of the word 'checked' we're not familiar with)

  5. I use our local libararies at least every week, sometimes more. I don't know what the limit is for how many books you can take out at once, but probably less than 22! Next time I go in I'll take out a few extra to bump the lending figures up a bit.

  6. it's funny, i was just in the library yesterday, and there was a man at the counter asking if the library was 'safe', as his local in Wolverton was closing down.
    the librarian said 'just', but she did seem worried and was having a tense phone conversation about staffing when i came in.
    if they did shut it down i'd still be able to use the big one in central Milton Keynes, but it's not the same as just taking a picturesque stroll down the road to a peaceful little library.

  7. If not legal, it ought to be! Wish I had a library nearby me.

    And, of course, I am wondering what's in that stack . . . anything by Billy Collins? Anything by Su Tung-P'o? (If you wonder why I'm asking, here’s the answer . . .)

  8. I read this article, and I applaud the efforts of library members. Sadly, the question is, if totally whacky NHS reforms are going to be railroaded through by this cobbled-together govt, what chance for our local libraries? Don't get me wrong, I'm no defeatist. I've just been on the wrong end of a Tory administration, before.

    Maybe I'm still bitter about the four years I spent unemployed, 1982-1986, but I look at this crowd and immediately the words leopard, never, changes, and spots come to mind.

  9. I joined the library in Sheffield the very week I moved here as a student. That was in 1968! I'm still here and still going every couple of weeks or so. So that's 42+ years in the Sheffield library system. But I joined (was joined, is probably closer to the mark) my local library in County Durham aged 7, so there's another 11 years until I left home. So I'm at 53+ years library membership, and will fight them in the bookstacks if they try to close ours down.

  10. Joanne - "Women! Know your limits!" - not originally about library books - I bet it's more than you think!

    Mounen - I worry when people say 'Is it safe?' - I watched Marathon Man at an impressionable age. It's definitely the smaller branches that are most under threat - possibly something to do with it being so 'nice and quiet' sadly.

    Rainy - thanks for the link to your enthralling post. I might have been scared of it if you hadn't - you know I'm skittish about music. I'll be looking for some Billy Collins in the next-to-last aisle tomorrow... and see what else I can find. Will comment again on your blog when I can play the clips (which i can't just now).

    Martin - If Wirral is anything to go by, I think that picking a fight with the borrowers pits them against formidable opposition - could bring down the government! See Woody's comment for a fine example...

    Woody - Good for you!
    We shall fight on the micro-fiches,
    we shall fight on the lending grounds,
    we shall fight in the reading groups & in the tweets,
    we shall fight on the shelves;
    we shall never surrender