Our barbarian bureaucratsTonkin's column is mostly taken up with the 20th anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo and the assault on the libraries there.
In Britain, we don't burn books; we merely allow councils to shut beloved public libraries. It has much the same effect. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the plan to close Friern Barnet Library in north London, the beautiful little branch where my life as a young reader properly began. Apologies for returning to its plight, but it (sadly) stands as fairly typical of the national scene. On Monday, Barnet council confirmed the closure of the branch and future sale of the site. They seem to have refused any serious consideration of the carefully-costed rescue proposals put forward by local campaigners. A new library is, in due course, promised at an arts centre elsewhere, but the timetable is clear as mud - again, par for the course with so many authorities. Polite, resourceful and eminently reasonable, the Save Friern Barnet Library campaigners justly feel that the council has treated them with scant respect. They certainly had no joy this week from Barnet CEO Nick Walkley, who earns £200,976 pa from public funds.
...sustained grenade bombardment set alight the buildings of the National and University Library, with its 1.5 million volumes and 150,000 rare books and manuscripts housed in the neo-Moorish old town hall. Citizens saved perhaps 100,000 items...We're not under that level of assault in Barnet! But I wonder what we would do to save our books?