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?


Anonymous said...

I have to say I think this is a good idea. You're right, too many whinge bags sponging off the state about the disgusting cuts blah blah, and yet you always see them buying cigarettes, standing at a bar, buying lottery tickets. It's people like these that the government need to cut!

I am not a fan of Cameron at all; I am really against a lot of his proposals and ideas, but this week I did actually agree with something he said, about the prisons and prisoners not having a right to vote. I don't think they should. They gave up their rights when they committed a crime in my opinion.

Have a good weekend, CJ xx

Ladybird World Mother said...

Brilliant. 25p is nothing, and those type of people that would complain wouldn't be in libraries anyway... x

Troy said...

CJ - thanks for commenting. Mrs Troy is also not a fan of Cameron. I just think it could have been a lot worse at the election last May. Only European judges and a handful of left-wing MPs think that murderers and rapists should have the vote.

LWM - I quite agree.

Catharine Withenay said...

It is an interesting idea. I am reluctant to agree to paying for borrowing books at all - I fear there will be a backlash before there is an uptake - but at least your scheme allows children's books to remain free. That, I think, is most important of all.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

The more I see of politics the more I see people of whatever persuasion looking after number one. Same goes for religion. And the older I get the less answers I have. Never mind, eh! Keep smiling.

Troy said...

Catharine - yes, it would be wrong to charge for children's books although even for those it wouldn't be such a bad idea for them to actually understand that nothing is really "free" in life.

Ken - "looking after number one" isn't such a bad philosophy". If everyone took the responsiblility of looking after themselves rather than relying on others to do so for them, then we'd have more than enough money to run the libraries and all the other services that benefit everyone in the community rather than spending a fortune just to maintain the idle and feckless among us. [gosh, that was a long sentence!]

D.J.Kirkby said...

We appear to have the same taste in entertaining fiction!