Friern Barnet Library: squatted and open: “It MAY be used by the public at all times”
It MAY be used by the public at all times
An instruction sign on a toilet: an odd blog post possibly. Although for me, these words encapsulate a great deal of what was wrong in today’s world and a great deal of what is good about the occupied Friern Barnet Library.
This sign’s message contrasts severely with the Government’s austerity programmes, and even their attack on the right to protest. With libraries and other services being cut, public spaces being closed and sold off; there are so many things the public may NOT use any of the time. Even in London’s “public space”, people are no longer free to protest when the authorities deem it. Therefore this sign struck a chord.
The first part talks of responsibility, about clearing up after your mess. If only the government, bankers and corporations took on this message: there would have been no bailout and the taxman would have collected millions of pounds in unpaid corporate taxes to invest into services and green jobs.
Then the second line is empowering. It says everyone has the right, the equal right, to be able to use this without cost or restriction.
This occupied library is a reversing against the government’s trend. Whereas government cuts are about destroying these spaces, those squatting and running this library have reinvigorated the space; it is welcoming, productive and a place for community to grow. It is what a library should be. It is what a government should be doing, in the spirit it should be doing it with. For whether it is a progressive education system, a welfare system that protects the vulnerable, a NHS based on the ideals on which it was built, public libraries, or anything else Cameron’s Government is attacking; these things should be free and all the public should be able have access, not just those who can afford it.
Photo by activist and librarian, Luke Adams