Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Leading horses to water

No, it's not burgers this time; we're in the normally hushed surroundings of the Dalkeith public library.

There are plans afoot, however, to shatter the calm on 2nd of February, which is, it seems, 'Love Your Library Day' in Midlothian.
A council has come under fire for offering free pole-dancing lessons and using books as tennis bats in a bid to encourage more people to use libraries.
Pole-dancing? How did that one get past the feminist lobby? Well, these days, apparently, it's 'empowering' for the dancers; in fact, it's virtually mandatory for a particular type of self-styled feminist.

In any case, in official statements, the council is describing the classes as 'fitness sessions', which puts them slap-bang into the 'healthy living' portfolio too - empowerment and exercise; it pushes all the right buttons for public funding.
Bob Constable, Midlothian Council's Cabinet member for public services and leisure [...] said, it was a "fun and interesting" way of encouraging more people to borrow books and try out local library service
Which perhaps says more about Cllr Constable's taste in leisure activities than we care to know. And it's not as if the pole-dancing - sorry, pole-fitness - is the only attraction on offer:
While guests swing on poles, local singers will perform and there will be sessions on novel writing. Books will be used as bats in games of "booky table tennis" sessions held through-out the day.
Since all of this is a clear bid for column inches, some opposition needs to be drummed up to create a sense of drama. Despite its assertion that the council is 'under fire', the best the Telegraph can offer is the chairman of the Library Campaign, who is either in on the publicity stunt or has that rare thing among lobbyists, a keen sense of humour:
Laura Swaffield, chairman of The Library Campaign, said that while pole-dancing was a novel approach to whipping up interest in local services, using books as table tennis bats was "just a step too far".
Quite right! What were they thinking of? That kind of thing that should be done only in the privacy of one's home, where books can also double as handy wasp-killers and coasters for hot coffee mugs (but don't tell the librarians).

But I have to admit one thing is puzzling me; if all the pole dancing - carefully described as 'for over-16s only', though it doesn't say whether that is to take part or to watch - does bring in a crowd, how likely are they to look around and say, "Och, while I'm about it, I'll just borrow a book or two"?

Surely no amount of gyrating on poles*, X-box challenges, head massages or - perish the thought! - 'booky table tennis' is going to change the way the good folk of Dalkeith view their public library on every other day of the year.

*For those wishing to see this for themselves, the guardian goes one better than the Telegraph, informing readers that the classes will take place between 1.30 and 3.30pm.


  1. More proof that throwing out the Labour government didn't really change anything...

  2. According to the new Equalities Commission guidance on the public sector you cannot restrict pole dancing to comely young ladies. This means many others. Where's the jock strap I never used to wash which I put at the back of the cupboard when I retired from rugger in 1965?

  3. True, Julia - though this being Scotland, the attitude to public money is slightly different.

    Demetrius, if that doesn't bring in the punters, I don't know what will...

    Actually, I've been wondering about it myself; unless the architect thoughtfully provide the lbrary wth steel pillars of appropriate diameter and tensile strength, the classes must be using non-fixed portable poles...

    *short break for research* - yes; they do exist, and there's even a comparison website:

    ...which rather begs the question how will they manage if the Dalkeith aspirants are rather less... er... lissom than the usual practitioners.

    (Just found the reassuring information that the Lil' Minx has a maximum load of 200lb, so as long as the local lassies (or laddies) are under 14 stone, all will be well.)


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