Don't Close Our Library!

I’m despairing somewhat. The whizz-kids at Suffolk County Council are trying to close Bungay Library. We’ve only recently moved to the town and the library is one of its many aces. Possibly the ace of all the aces for us. It’s housed in a modern (90s) building, it’s light and airy, has all mod cons, friendly staff and a beautiful enclosed garden my son loves to run around in. The entrance hall is bright with posters and flyers for all sort of local events, there are always people using the facilities and at night it’s used as a meeting place for local clubs, from running clubs to sewing clubs. Basically, it’s a well loved, well used service in a great building.

What’s more it’s inexpensive. It’s certainly costs a hell of a lot less to run than it does to keep Suffolk County Councils CEO behind her desk for a year. Andrea Hill has an annual salary of over £220,000. And she’s not taking a pay cut! And they’re saying we should have our library closed!

These extortionate salaries are justified with a line such as this: “if we want the best people we have to compete with the private sector.” Which of course assumes ‘the best people’ are only out for the cash. I’d argue that many of the ‘best people’ earn salaries that do not compete with the private sector and it doesn’t matter to them, as long as they are treated fairly (ha, fat chance with this government). But even if we accept that weak line there is still no chance that people like Andrea Hill should be earning that kind of money now. You want to make it like the private sector, fine, do that, but when the money dries up, so do their salaries. The private sector would have a board room cull right about now. They wouldn’t stop making things or providing services, because otherwise they cease to exist.

Suffolk County Council should be cutting from the top down, not frontline services like libraries. Or maybe they should be putting up council tax cover some of the short fall. The reason they haven’t done that by they way is that the government has given them an £8m bribe not to. So Cameron can boast about council tax not rising in the commons. The whole thing is rotten and bent and wrong.

Anyway, for what good it’ll do I’ve written this poem, which sums up my feelings better than above rant:

An Ash of Dewey Decimals

In county halls across the land
the snakes who make two hundred grand
are rolling out a gruesome plan
to close the libraries.

The type who’s names appear on plaques
cry Prudence! as they strike a match
then hold it to a paperback
and something dies in me.

The misspelled writing’s on the wall
they’ll sell the land for shopping malls
an ash of Dewey Decimals
it makes good business sense.

Now reading groups and learning schemes
and safety nets for falling teens
are charcoal in a jack-boot dream
of raging discontent.

Meanwhile these lords in second homes
will whisper in their mobile phones
and purchase shares in Waterstones
Hurrah! A bumper year!

They gurn and cheer as Britain chokes
and public welfare sadly smokes:
We’re all in this together, folks!
Just drown yourself in beer.

And those who think these lines contrived
come here and look me in the eyes
and tell me this is civilised
don’t try to lie to me.

You damn the kids in rural towns
whose shoulders are not fit for gowns
you keep them thick and keep them down
in your Big Society.

14 thoughts on “Don't Close Our Library!

  1. Good blog. Good poem. I’ve long held there are plenty of ‘the best people’ around, many of them earning much less and just waiting for a chance to shine.

    Applies even more to bankers, where the people at the top are obviously not ‘the best people’ as they made the wrong decisions last time around. How many have gone because of those decisions, though?

  2. I also feel pain Luke.
    Beccles Library is on the way out too, but to be fair, it is a bit shit, and we’re getting a Wetherspoons soon.

  3. Excellently put.

    Have you sent this to EADT and your other local papers? They’ll love it ‘BBC poet defends local library’ yay!

  4. Luke, another great poem. I’m just getting over your brilliant take on Dresden and then this. Many years ago – way before your appearance on the planet – I went to a political rally in Belle Vue, Manchester. A place rich in irony as the name implies. Jimmy Reid, a Scottish shop stewards leader at the time, was the speaker. He stared at us, paused for dramatic effect as we sat transfixed like rabbits in the headlights and said, “and the one thing ye have to remember is this; if we all spat together we could drown the bastards.” Suffolk is quite low lying. Maybe worth a try?

  5. Sums up exactly how many are feeling. As a child I spent many a happy hour in my local library on a Saturday morning, I even became quite proficient with the microfiche reader (before t’internet for those too young to know about such things).


  6. Our libraries are our life’s blood
    Let’s fight and give our all
    To lose would be our shame
    Our children deserve so much

  7. Hi Luke,
    I was looking for the poem you wrote a few years ago about the boy whose mind opened up because he visited the library. I cannot find that one but we will read an discuss this one in lesson tomorrow. (I am a FS English teacher) Hope that’s okay?

    Can you please put up a link to that other poem, or is it now off-line in which case which of your anthologies is it in??

  8. HI again, Luke. My last comment was so rude. So to start again.

    I enjoyed reading your poetry some years ago, and especially one in which you write about an annoying boy whose mind is opened by reading in the library. I am now a teacher of Functional SKills English in Adult Ed and have decided we are going to have a lesson about libraries. I really wanted us to read that poem and discuss it. I cannot find it anywhere! I found this one instead, which I like but I admit not as much as the other, and will discuss it instead. However, can you please send a link or info where I can find/purchase the other.

    Moreover, do you have a audio recording of these too. It would be so great to play them. I don’t know if the students have ever heard performance poetry and that too would spark of a discussion.


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