Tuesday, 16 September 2014

"*watcha reading for !?*"

The Canegie Rules image via this article
No, it's not officially 'Library Week', but unofficially, well every week should be library week. And with the world wide movement to 'future proof' and privatize everything we should all keep a very close eye on our Libraries. World wide they are under threat, closing, downsizing, being turned into exclusive and very private book clubs.

Our very own Hastings Library was originally supported by the Carnegie Foundation, one of 2509 libraries built in the United States, Britain and Ireland, Canada, Australia, the Caribbean, Fiji and New Zealand.

Carnegie intended for the Libraries to be 'Free', all very well for an American Industrialist with their special wealth generating abilities. And most Libraries were able to comply with the condition that they provide a debt-free site for the library, and that they commit an annual sum to support it (for which the penny in the pound rate could be used).
Unfortunately the word 'Free' is open to interpretation, and, as it turned out didn't just mean they needed to provide a free Reading Room. It seemed when Carnegie said 'Free' he meant with no charges, not even for borrowing. This meant the costs would be incorporated into the Rates Bill, and that is never an easy sell. Some Libraries left the scheme at that point, some complied, and one or two went rogue, possibly 'pretending' to misunderstand the rules and simply providing the free Reading Room, but charging for everything else.

Image courtesy of the ever wonderful Knowledge Bank
The Hastings Library, was 'reminded' of the  Carnegie requirements after a local  wrote to Carnegie to complain about the charges. The charges were quickly dropped, and just as quickly reintroduced. However the library building was then destroyed in the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake and the council applied to the Carnegie Corporation of New York  for funds to rebuild. The Corporation declined, noting that they had not abided by the conditions of the original grant.

Story Hour  New Deal-era posters from the Works Progress Administration poster collection.

So here we are. The Libraries charge for most services, and if, like me, you're not so good at returning books on time, and forget to go online and 'Renew', well, lets just say the fines can hurt.  But, at least we have a Library, accessible to all, and affordable to all who use it wisely. Not only is it a place for books and what-not, it also provides an important social function for young and old.

So if you haven't been to the Library in a few years you should head on down. And next time the Elections come along, make sure to ask your chosen candidate their thoughts on our 'Freeish' libraries, and help make sure they remain an integral  part of our cities future.