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From Lending to Learning by Rónán O'Beirne

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1

For what are libraries if not for learning?

As I write this introduction, a debate on BBC Radio 4 suggests that in order to effect public sector efficiency savings, volunteers should run public libraries along the lines of charity shops.1 There are regular announcements of this type in the media, with yet more initiatives to change public libraries – to breathe new life into them, to put new energy into the service and to take new approaches that range from raising noise levels to the provision of coffee and chat facilities. At the heart of all such announcements lies a very important, yet simple, question: what are public libraries for?

In recent times the public library question has intensified and become a topic for passionate debate both ...

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