SOME Swindon people are worried about the plan to withdraw funding from every library in the borough apart from the central one.

They say pulling the financial plug and appealing for volunteers to run them instead spells doom for a vital service.

It is important to stress that such objections are nothing more than scaremongering and speculation.

There is absolutely nothing to worry about.

After all, there are bound to be plenty of volunteers. Most people of working age have plenty of spare time apart from the 40 or more hours they spend in work every week.

There are also retired people, of course.

Most retired people, having spent 40 or 50 years doing a demanding job, would like nothing more than to bin their hobbies, leisure time and travel plans in favour of taking on another demanding job – but this time in exchange for no financial consideration whatsoever.

Once the volunteers are recruited, there will be no need to waste any money training them. You see, the only things librarians have to be able to do are scan books in and out and say “shush” occasionally. They sometimes also have to spray air freshener if it’s raining outside and a gentleman of the road has come in for shelter, a cheeky sherry from the bottle in his pocket, a thorough cough and bit of a shout at the wall.

You may have heard that librarianship is an exacting business requiring considerable on-the-job and academic training. You may have heard that good librarians must have a knowledge of everything from complex cataloguing systems and book replenishment protocols to current local, national and international cultural trends, not to mention being skilled in electronic data retrieval and archive preservation.

None of that is true. In fact, it’s a myth put about by librarians and librarian training colleges.

Anyway, if not enough volunteers come forward to run libraries, this is yet another indication that times have changed and nobody wants libraries anymore.

When a branch library is under-patronised, it is not because of underfunding, a lack of stock or a lack of staff.

Nor is it because regular opening hours have been scrapped in favour of 27 minutes on alternate Tuesdays, 93 minutes on every third Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and an extra half hour on Thursday in the week preceding Septuagesima Sunday if it’s a Leap Year.

No, the real reason for branch libraries being under-patronised is that nobody wants to learn from books anymore, and that we prefer the internet instead.

In the bad old days, if we wanted to learn about the world about us or the folk in charge of society we had to rely on some boring old carefully-researched book, probably written by a person who’d devoted years to researching their subject.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can now access experts online.

We can also access people who pretend to be experts but are not. In fact, they may have no knowledge at all, be chained for their own safety to a radiator in their mother’s basement. All we have to do is guess which is which.

Mind you, some of those basement dwellers do have some truly ridiculous theories.

My favourite is the one about the powerful conspiring to deprive ordinary people of access to knowledge, and to turn us all into stupid, unquestioning drones.

As if…

Lane sign hardly fine

ARE you a bit confused by last week’s revelation that a bus lane camera has snared more than 10,000 drivers, netting £300,000 in fines?
Me too.
Some drivers say the signage on the route leading to the lane isn’t clear enough, but the council says the signs comply with regulations. 
That doesn’t alleviate my confusion, though.
As I understand it, the purpose of bus lane cameras is to deter drivers from using bus lanes.
Deterring drivers from using bus lanes is necessary in order to make public transport move more efficiently, thereby encouraging more people to use it and leave their cars at home.
Surely 10,000 drivers using the lane in six months, many of whom say they would not have done so but for being confused, cannot be good for that green transport vision.
Perhaps the signage should therefore be revised as a matter of urgency, so nobody can claim they were unaware of the camera.
After all, the bus lane camera is there to help safeguard the environment, and those in charge of it have only the environment in mind.
The revenue from the camera will be of no importance to them, I’m sure.