Friday, 26 June 2009

A tragic death

The early death of Michael Jackson is sad, the death of a community is a tragedy. More than 800 jobs are being axed by Corus in Sheffield and Rotherham - 40% of the current South Yorkshire workforce. The effect on individuals will be devestating and the whole community will be seriously affected.

Public libraries are a part of that community and will share in their pain. To be honest there is little that libraries can do to alleviate the initial impact of mass redundancies but they can a should be part of a process to help damaged communities to heal themselves. At a basic level they provide free or cheap access to books and DVDs. They are a source of information needed by people who are unemployed and facing financial problems. They provide a gateway to lifelong learning opportunities. Finally, they are a community resource, a place for people to come together.

If libraries are to have any impact in this situation many things must change. Librarians will need to consider new ways of working and new priorities. Local authorities must see libraries as being more than just books. Other national and local agencies must recognise the potential role of libraries.

Some mining communities never recovered from pit closures. Some communities in South Yorkshire may not recover from this latest blow. Many lives will be damaged and some destroyed. Can libraries be a light when all others have failed?

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