Government booked

News that 29 libraries, established across the country under the auspices of the national organization devoted to books for children and young people, may close down and that three of them have suspended their operations is a cause for serious concern. In a country that already suffers a shortage of public libraries and which has tried to stimulate readership among pupils, it is unforgivable that the few remaining libraries are in danger of closing down as well. To be sure, PASOK Deputy Maria Damanaki’s intervention was driven by political opportunism and carefully avoided the fact that these libraries have long been in debt – and that the situation actually got worse under the Socialist governments. Regardless of any political expediency, the problem remains. Although the deficit swelled under the previous government, it is the conservatives who are to blame for delaying for 13 months the appointment of the organization’s board of directors. New Democracy’s tardiness hindered contacts with private sponsors whose aid is necessary to ease the deficit. The new board appointed in April expressed hope that order will soon be restored. But why was the libraries’ smooth operation disrupted in the first place? Was it so hard to appoint a new board in time? And if the government did drag its feet without excuse, why did the local administrators fail to react? Indeed, how could so many government and local administration officials ignore the fact that library employees have not been paid since January? Regardless of the more specific reasons for the mess and the responsibilities of the government and its predecessor, the uncertainty surrounding the future of children’s book libraries raises questions about political sensitivity. There is much talk about culture but no one seems to realize that culture depends on a number of factors – often symbolic. So despite repeated assurances about Greece’s emphasis on culture, people read news reports about the state’s economic difficulties in funding the Parthenon’s restoration works, about the the strain on the National Gallery and the Greek National Opera, or about libraries for children that may have to close down. How can one trust Greek politicians with big issues when they fail even with minor ones?

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