Thursday, 10 February 2011


When you look at the price you have to pay for entertainment - sporting events, concerts, the cinema - most are expensive. Some excessively so, in my opinion. There's not a lot of free entertainment available is there? Or is there?

Yesterday afternoon I went to my local library. Its a three mile drive to the nearest village library and its opening times vary day-to-day so I need to check each time from a handout pinned to our noticeboard to ensure I'll be going when its open. Its only a small library but it has a decent selection of books - reference and novels - as well as a few newspapers and periodicals. Whilst there I always have a quick browse of the local newspapers and a couple of magazines. Recently the council announced that they would be closing this library unless it was taken over "by the community". You are perhaps now expecting me to rant and rave about council spending cuts. Not on Troy's blog. With the parlous state of our economy after thirteen years of socialist mismanagement I fully understand the need to bring public spending back under control. However I think in many instances that councils are picking soft targets to cut rather than say their layers of over-paid middle managers for diversity and equality.

Troy has another idea to save the local libraries. Yesterday I borrowed four novels. Here they are:

None of these could be described as educational. They are just entertaining fiction. In fact I'm hoping to have hours of free entertainment over the next three weeks reading these novels. "Found Wanting" by Robert Goddard is I think the 16th book of his that I'll have read so I'm confident that I'll enjoy it. Likewise the collection of short stories by John Grisham. The other two are gambles based on reading the blurb of their back covers.

So I'm getting hours of entertainment - reading is better I believe than the cinema if you've got a good imagination - and all for "free". Well I say "free" but of course I pay an excessive amount each month in council tax, but like the NHS, libraries are free at the point of use. Now my idea to save the libraries would be to charge a modest amount for each book lent - say 25p. So I'd walk in, pay £1.00 for my four books and come out with hours of very cheap entertainment. At our library we check in and check out books ourselves using the technology. It wouldn't be difficult to put a prepaid amount(say £5) onto a card and then when checking the books out the system would take the charge off the prepaid card. Children could be exempt from the charges - but then adults would use their kid's cards to take out books. My answer to that would be to just have childrens book as exempt from charge (zero rated on the computer system) so that adult books would still be charged whoever took them out.

I can't believe that a modest 25p charge would deter readers. Even "poorer people" like those ahead of me in the queue at the local newsagents buying lottery tickets and cigarettes shouldn't find 25p per book excessive for a few hours of enjoyable reading.

There is apparently an Act of Parliament from 1964 that prevents libraries from charging for books. DVDs etc. can be charged out, but not books. So it would need parliament to rescind that law. I think that should be done, enabling councils to make modest charges for book lending and thus saving our libraries.

But that's just my opinion, I'd be very interested in hearing via the comments box what my readers think?