It is of course gratifying that some people actually care about real books as if real books are, or were, precious objects, worth preserving in spite of the Kindle revolution.
Each local authority is charged with that responsibility on behalf of the communities they serve particularly in these times of supposed “austerity” when such cultural assets become especially vulnerable to abuses by philistines. Public libraries exist to provide access for the public because the public own these assets; the books are provided by the public purse for public enlightenment.
Southend Council therefore has questions to answer.
When Mrs Monk relayed the following story to me in May of last year, I was happy to publish as if it were true, and I so wanted it to be true.
4 May 2013The story relayed by the staff at the town rubbish tip is that the contents of this skip were books collected by a very old man over time. The books were sent here by the family of the old man since he was obliged to move out of his home. We were also told that the old man was never able to read but collected nevertheless. Mrs Monk rescued a few books and we now have a pile on our coffee table. The next day it rained upon the contents of this container and the contents have now decomposed into pulp fiction.
It was in fact too good a fairy tale to be true and it was of course a lie designed to protect Southend Council from the awful truth.
Since then a brand new Library has appeared in the heart of Southend. The timing seemed odd and we did wonder if a brand new library was affordable or indeed necessary. It was also surprising that the Southend Tory Council who are otherwise so energetically pursuing the cut backs demanded by rich-man George Osborne's austerity, would then open this Library, and at the same time announce the closure of other smaller local libraries where there is a public demand that they stay open.
We watched the new library materialise in the heart of the town and just a short walk from the old library. We noted how similar the new building was in both design and the scale of the old Building. So what gives? What exactly was the point of spending £27 million of tax payer’s money on this new library?
Nevertheless, in due course the new library was opened September 2013 by Professor Brian Cox. The old building has no apparent use and continues to stand empty.
We Monks took a look at the new building and discovered that half of the building would be utilised by the University of Essex and South Essex College, more of it would be giving over to other non library activities and therefore what we assumed would be a grander public library of the public stock of books, would become a space for much fewer books than occupied the old building where four floors were packed to the rafters with books
The question arises; what happened to the books?
Mrs. Monk took these pictures at the town dump, where these books were discovered in a forty foot container destined for landfill or pulp. The books that Mrs. Monk rescued from the dump were hitherto the property of the taxpayers of Southend Council.
I believe they were all from the public book collection in the charge of Southend Council.
How very tragic. How very Fahrenheit 451.
The Council have applied for a liquor licence for the new Library and want to turn it into a disco.