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Philip Pullman retells the chilling ghost story haunting England’s libraries
30 October 2012
Taylor & Francis
Renowned children’s author, Philip Pullman denounces the “greedy ghost” that is currently haunting local authorities throughout the land, devastating the great public libraries of Oxford and beyond, not to mention wreaking havoc in the publishing industry and pitting one community against another. No, this is not the plot of the author’s new novel, but his “deliciously withering” attack on current cost-cutting policies published in a leading academic journal this week!
The new issue of the journal Prometheus includes a lively debate on the future of public libraries, beginning with Philip Pullman’s Proposition article “On the closure of public libraries in Oxfordshire”, an edited version of Pullman’s notorious mauling of Oxfordshire County Council – which, like other local authorities across England, is taking an axe to its library services, making cuts that are as dramatic as any likely to be seen in a
Pullman links the attacks on public libraries to wider cuts in public services driven by “market fundamentalism”:
“Market fundamentalism, this madness that’s infected the human race, is like a greedy ghost that haunts boardrooms and council chambers and committee rooms from which the world is run these days. …”
“The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that’s all he understands. What he doesn’t understand is enterprises that don’t make a profit, because they’re not set up to do that but to do something different. He doesn’t understand libraries at all, for instance.”
His article poses several questions for everyone who is involved with, or cares about, public services and the future structure of society: How can services be run by volunteers when everyone is already busy working or caring or already volunteering elsewhere? Is the bidding process inherent in the Big Society actually tearing that society apart? And is profit taking the pleasure out of the publishing industry?
The academic editor of Prometheus, Stuart Macdonald, describes Pullman’s Proposition article as a “deliciously withering response” to Oxfordshire County Council’s accusation that authors have a vested interest in the “public library trough”. For the response and extended debate that follows the Pullman article, Macdonald has drawn together views from across the political spectrum and from both sides of the public–private equation.
Key articles include:
- “Not a job for those who have brought libraries to crisis”, by Desmond Clarke, a library campaigner and former president and chief executive of International Thomson Publishing Services Group and former director of the publisher Faber and Faber
- “The public library in the UK’s Big Society”, by Steve Davies, a trade unionist and academic
- “Positive management in libraries: if you build it, they won’t necessarily come”, by Jim Lynch and Stuart St. V. Fitzgerald who are UK representatives of the American company, Library Systems & Services (LSSI), a private management company working for local authorities wishing to outsource library services
- “Waste of space: a satire on public libraries and librarians”, featuring Rahm Emanual, mayor of Chicago, written by artist and author Iszi Lawrence.
Read Philip Pullman’s Proposition article at:
and the ensuing debate at: