For my taste, nothing to me is potentially more damaging to democracy and freedom than the closure of public libraries. Philip Pullman has said it all more eloquently than I ever could, in a speech to a meeting last week to oppose the threatened library closures in Oxfordshire. It’s beautiful, poignant and bang on, as the following short extract shows:
And the secrecy of it! The blessed privacy! No-one else can get in the way, no-one else can invade it, no-one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That open democratic space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?