The independent London newspaper

Library IT centre deepens divide between haves and have-nots

01 December, 2017

• A COUPLE of weeks ago in the reference section of Islington Central Library, I was horrified/dismayed/bewildered to discover that it was due to be replaced by an IT learning centre.

If the Central Library is jettisoning its reference section that means they all are. No one I’ve spoken to had the slightest idea this was going on.

I can see that, with council budgets being endlessly hammered by the lack of central government support, it’s hard to persuade anyone to take to the barricades over reference libraries, but when was it generally agreed all our learning should be entirely entrusted to Google, an organisation not known for its altruistic behaviour? That Google and similar search engines will control all access to knowledge is extremely alarming, especially with any changes made digitally invisible.

What all those 19th-century philanthropists understood so well was the nature of a free-to-all portal to education and self-improvement – arduous and expensive to build up but terribly easy to destroy. Once gone it won’t come again.

Good luck to anyone trying to keep abreast of reporting in the media – easy with papers and books to consult; not so much when confronted by paywalls in all directions for press and reference publications increas­ingly only published online.

The sunny uplands of a paperless, connected world can only massively more entrench the divide between the haves and the have-nots, and bring about ever greater surveillance and control. What happens to anyone who believes in preserving choice alongside digital options?

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