Protecting our libraries will require some change

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

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There has never been a more important time to recognise the value of our libraries, now funding cuts have come knocking at their door.

Many of our services are already under threat and the spotlight has fallen on the way our libraries are organised.

In Hampshire, that means many opening hours are to be reduced.

With that in mind, Portsmouth City Council’s decision to focus on saving money, without cutting hours or closing libraries, should be welcomed.

Sometimes, an innovative idea is needed, even if that means sacrificing one thing to protect another.

There will be those who take a sharp intake of breath when they hear how more money is to be spent on fiction and e-books at the expense of reference books.

We understand their misgivings. For many people, a library will traditionally have been their go-to place for learning.

When they have needed to find something out, check a fact or increase their understanding of a subject, the reference book shelves at the local library have been their first port of call.

However, more and more people simply don’t feel the need to borrow or consult a reference book any more.

They already have the tools they need to hand and that’s thanks to the advent of the internet.

In an ideal world, there would be a place for books and online reference sites.

But faced with some tough decisions to make on spending, the city council has looked at where savings can be made in a way that fits how they see people using libraries in the future.

People will still be able to use and visit the city’s nine libraries in the same way they always have done. Those living across Hampshire won’t be so lucky.

Our libraries should be cherished. For many people – old, young and everything in between – these public facilities bring pleasure, escape and knowledge.

No-one wants to see our libraries dumbed-down to a point past recognition. But adapting services to ensure libraries continue to stay open and be accessible to all is vital for the future.