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The Public Library

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 31 August 2010

Question: Where can you go to reduce your fear of crime, have a massage, ring a church bell, get some information about council tax, and engage in some heavy petting without being told off?

Quentin Letts is surprised and sometimes disheartened by the answer; a library.

Of course, you can borrow a book as well, but campaigners argue that - with some authorities spending less than ten per cent of their library budgets on books -something has gone very wrong with the way the service is being managed.

Public Libraries have come a long way since Manchester opened the first in the 1850s. But where is the service going? Gleaming new buildings have opened in Newcastle, Whitechapel and Brighton - but more than 80 other libraries have been closed in the last five years; an age of public spending cuts surely means more.

Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, campaigner Tim Coates and Arts minister Edward Vaizey join Quentin Letts as he asks, what's the point of the public library?


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