Take Two with Colin Drury

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Maybe Libraries should shut

It’s been confirmed 15 libraries are to shut in Sheffield unless volunteers run them, then?

That’s not good news, of course. But maybe it’s not all that bad, either.

Libraries, as this column has argued before. are a high water mark of civilisation and the proof that humanity – despite war, genocide and EastEnders – is fundamentally a fine thing.

But in the year 2013 – an age of mass car and computer ownerships – is there really any need for Sheffield to have 27 of them? Such a number is a Fifties throwback. If libraries didn’t already exist no-one would build them. Only 29 per cent of people used the service in 2009. Pumping funding into a shrinking institution is a waste of public money. Sheffield City Council is right to prune.

That doesn’t mean encouraging ignorance or isolating those who use them still; it means coming up with fresh ways to provide relevant resources.

Offering free public transport to those using the service, perhaps? Better stocking school libraries and keeping them open at weekends, maybe? Setting up computer suites in the back rooms of paid local businesses complete with free internet and book ordering services?

Could this not work? Would this not be better than fighting a battle which time – and not the recession – has already won?

WINDY BY BALLOON

A nice anniversary this week: it was 190 years yesterday since the first balloon ride from Sheffield took place. Appropriately- named Windham Sadler reached a height of two miles after taking off from The Wicker. He eventually landed, a hero, in Nottinghamshire.