LOOK here, it’s an old character from the Camden Council soap opera, Philip ‘I used to work for the Home Office’ Colligan, talking about how if we all could swap our books then cuts to libraries wouldn’t hurt so bad. The former assistant chief executive at the Town Hall, now with new team NESTA, waxes about helping to set up a book swapping club in Sutton.
It works, it seems, by us all offering to loan out books we’ve bought and read to people living nearby. Note: Anybody in north London who wants to borrow my copy of Perry Groves’s autobiography and series one on DVD of The Press Gang better have some good swapsies ready before we can deal. I at least want sight of the classic Muppets annual 1984.
Maybe Phil’s article for The Guardian has a deceptive headline, a shock tactic which might draw in more readers – it made me look – but give people the wrong idea. ‘COULD WE REPLACE LIBRARIES WITH BOOK SWAPPING CLUBS?’. Easy answer to that: No.
But what PC actually writes is: “It was designed to augment, not replace, libraries, which do so much more than lend books. As the developer on the project Adrian Short explains: “You can borrow my books but you can’t pitch up in my living room for the afternoon.”
The sentiment inside the piece is all true: people do get upset when local authority brains talk about replacing (we don’t read ‘replace’, we read ‘closing down’) libraries, and rightly so. But if an idea like this can work as a supplement to existing treasured services and is proven to work as a supplement to existing treasured services, it might yet be something even lovers of libraries could learn to love to. We’ll see. Don’t write off the idea just yet.