Are libraries out of date?
My home is cluttered with books, most of which I haven't touched since my original exploratory fumblings when they were still new, exciting and unknown.
Campfield, the first public library
I have, I admit, let the situation drift. Until recently, it was manageable - but now space is at a premium and something has to be done. In Austerity Britain, everything must earn its keep; contribute to the bottom line; provide value for money. All those square feet the books are taking up could be cleared up, enabling a small room to provide the basis for a new bed-and-breakfast business.
Then - and this is the sort of bonus you get when adopting a positive profit-and-loss mindset - in what is being touted as the coldest winter since the previous coldest winter, these displaced books could be bunged on the fire to keep down the ever-increasing gas bill.
A former library
The case for says that, like those former school sports fields, libraries take up lots of useful space, sitting there stuffed full of books that nobody reads. It is, some argue, a no-brainer.
The case against says that what might appear to be a no-brainer could lead to a society of no brains, where free and easy access to ideas, information and the imagination of others is removed like a frontal lobotomy.
It is preferable if lots of people use their local library, a subject discussed here in the summer, but it is not essential. What is essential, campaigners insist, is that libraries exist, even if only one person a year goes in, and that's for a chat with their brother who happens to be the librarian.
Libraries are totems of a society that prizes intellectual ambition, freedom of speech, ideas, knowledge and the human spirit. As for the public building that houses it - to its defenders, it is emblematic: a physical statement by the state to the community and to the world about the value of learning and the pursuit of knowledge.
For me, libraries are a public space - like a park - in which you may wander at will among trees of knowledge full of fruit banned in other countries.
My earlier post looked at those that have successfully turned themselves into fully-fledged knowledge centres with programmes of talks, courses, clubs and signings. It's another approach, which suggests investing more in public libraries and so might sound counter-intuitive in our cash-strapped times. And it only works with careful thought; perhaps it's not the concept of the public library that is out of date, rather the thinking behind how they are run.