'First cut' on road to rock bottom

Why bother with libraries even if you are an international City of Literature, writes Victor Billot, of Dunedin?

There has been some unfortunate confusion about the proposal to reduce opening hours in certain parts of the Dunedin Public Library.

Some have complained this does not sit well with Dunedin recently being awarded the international status of City of Literature.

But in the tradition of the great authors, our council has rightly asked us to suspend our disbelief and enter into the world of the imagination.

There is no reason a City of Literature needs actual libraries.

Books are optional, writers a ragtag of opinionated misfits, and readers should consume more digital video content and boost our economy through pay-per-click advertising revenue.

Our new status is merely a branding opportunity by which we can sell ourselves as a quirky niche tourism destination.

There is always some residual sentimental attachment to ''nice to have'' civic services, which are all of them, except the stadium, which is an essential infrastructure asset.

That is the reason why we should follow an incremental process of managed change.

This will involve reducing the opening hours of the library to a randomly selected 20 minutes per week.

Lighting will be replaced by bring your own candle.

Each floor will be progressively sealed off until access is restricted to one shelf of cheap thrillers located in the car park.

Sooner or later, people will become demoralised, confused, and simply give up and stop using the service.

There is a precedent from several years ago when the council information centre sensibly refused to hand over costly bus timetables to freeloading tourists.

If we can have an information centre without information, why not a City of Literature where libraries are surplus to requirement?

If we are to be honest with ourselves, none of us really like the people who lurk in libraries with their pasty faces and big thick glasses shoved in books.

What do they know we don't?

We didn't like them when we were at school and we don't like them now.

Everything is on the internet anyway.

If people don't have the internet, they can come and sit outside the closed library and access the free Wi-Fi hot spot from the east wall with their iPads.

Everyone has iPads.

I saw the mayor with one just the other week.

In winter, the external air conditioning vents will provide a comfortable ambient temperature for surfing the information superhighway.

A plastic bag from the supermarket will keep your iPad dry and ice-free.

As many have pointed out in error-riddled text messages and Facebook postings, libraries are simply outmoded, a relic of a bygone era of literacy and learning.

Our cultural aspirations are now represented by more relevant and contemporary voices such as Aerosmith and Rod Stewart.

It is undeniable money is in short supply.

This became apparent soon after $500 million was recently spent on a local light entertainment venue.

Savings have to be made. But we will get used to the pain.

As Rockin' Rod once sang, ''the first cut is the deepest''.

Some have suggested that as a city of education, libraries are an important feature.

This once again misses the point.

We already have Hyde St parties and a light entertainment venue.

What more do these people need?

While financing for an endless roster of missions to Shanghai and bloated subsidies for the Stadium of Dreams can be found, books are on the out.

It's not necessary to burn them.

Let's just shut the doors, and sooner or later the bookworms will get the message.

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