The instinct is to greet it as good news. After all, if a plan to trial unmanned libraries means it’s easier for more people to access books, then that is, surely, exactly the sort of thing we can all get behind?
And, yes, we can certainly see the benefits of allowing entry to unmanned libraries, out of hours. For those working antisocial hours or with restricted mobility, this move could make a huge difference. But we think we may be excused for raising the issue of whether this plan by Edinburgh council might open up the possibility of further cuts to staff hours. If the pilot scheme is a success, those with responsibility for the bottom line may ask whether libraries need any staff at all?
The answer to that is a resounding yes. Libraries are more than places to borrow books, they are social hubs. To the young reader, a great librarian is a guide to the new and exciting world of the written word while, to others, he or she may be nothing more than a friendly familiar face in an otherwise lonely day. Both roles are equally vital and any attempt to open up the possibility of staff cuts would be a grave mistake.