We all know a truth about libraries, which is that those which will succeed are those that wake up to the world of new technology, the internet and everything else, and investment goes in. That is what needs to happen. Should councils look at community solutions for other libraries? I believe that they should. Instead of sniping and jumping on every bandwagon, the right hon. Gentleman should get behind the big society.(Hansard, 9 Feb. 2011, around Column 293)
I thought this was a pretty silly thing to have said, and so I wrote to him to say so (the Contact Number 10 webpage suggests that a posted letter is more likely to receive a response than an email). I listed a few of the ways in which public libraries have been embracing technological changes - reforming the way they operate, educating their readers, making the internet available to all - and even suggested that I'd be happy to show Mr Cameron one of my local libraries so that he could see what's already going on.
Today I had a reply from the Prime Minister's office. Needless to say, my offer of a library tour has not been accepted. In fact, given the response, it's hard to determine whether my letter was actually read at all:
From the Direct Communications UnitI suppose that this is the nature of campaigning about something. Most of the time, efforts look like they might be in vain - it's easy to feel like you're shouting into a gale, and that no-one will hear what you're saying. When out on the street on Save Libraries Day (5th Feb) I got to thinking more or less the same thing: 'how many people can I possibly be influencing?'
I am writing on behalf of the Prime Minister to thank you for your letter of 11 February.
Mr Cameron appreciates all the feedback he receives, so it is good of you to have taken the time and trouble to get in touch and to let him have your thoughts.
Once again, thank you for writing to the Prime Minister.
But equally, when out on the street I did have conversations with a good few people who really were interested to know what was under threat and how they could help. And all the others who scurried by trying to ignore us will still probably have heard the word 'library' a few times; if drip-drip marketing is good enough for commercial products, then it's good enough for my library campaigning. At the very least, people have been reminded of the existence of libraries, and Mr Cameron (or someone on his staff, at least) has been shown that there's one more person who's watching what he says and does.
I know that some other library folk also wrote to the PM around that time. Has anyone else heard anything back?