chapter  6
8 Pages

Political invisibility

Yet despite the pervasive influence that the public library service plays in many people's lives, and in the social fabric of the places in which they live, the service itself is the subject of the seemingly contradictory values of high public esteem and low political visibility and concern. "Dying in a welter of goodwill" was the phrase used in the original Comedia report, although as that report also showed, in many places the library service was still thriving. Nevertheless, on the national political stage - in parliament, in the committee rooms and lobbying parlours, in the editorials of the national press, in broadcasting and elsewhere - public libraries remain a subject of, at most, mild interest and occasional comic repartee. When the Comedia report was published, the editor of one national heavyweight newspaper declined to carry any article or feature about the report because, he baldly stated, "nobody's interested in libraries". Yet how does one square this apparent national political indifference - the local situation is often quite different - with the ministerial statement by Richard Luce MP in the Introduction to the government's 1988 Green Paper Financing our public library service, that "I believe that we have in Britain the finest public library service in the world." A world-class service admired and emulated throughout the world but ignored at home? Such political invisibility deserves wider consideration.