In her epic biography of Morris, Fiona MacCarthy calls him ‘one of nature’s library users, perhaps because he came to behave as if he owned them’; and she tells H.M. Hyndman’s story of Morris effortlessly dating illuminated missals in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. In News from Nowhere Henry Morsom travels to Oxford to ‘get a book or two’ out of the Bodleian, so it is good to know that in utopia that prestigious institution will be democratised, and become a lending rather than purely reference library. I think we can safely assume, then, that Morris would support today’s demonstration in London in defence of public libraries, particularly since it involves a march between those eminently Morrisian locations, the British Library and Trafalgar Square.
As an excellent article in today’s Guardian informs us: 1/ spending by councils on library services fell by 20% between 2010 and 2015; 2/ 25% of all jobs in libraries – some 8000 in total – have been lost since May 2010; and 3/ one in eight council-run libraries has been closed or transferred out of the public sector in the past six years. We might have thought the Tory austerity project had been thoroughly overtaken by the complications of Brexit, but no, it is alive and viciously kicking, just as much as it ever was in the Cameron-Osborne years. Our public libraries, which are such crucial cultural resources for disadvantaged families (as I know from my own childhood), are being butchered by the Conservatives, so more power to the elbows of our admirable London protestors!