It’s a new centre, oh, sorry, a hub

By Charlotte Hofton

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

 

It’s a new centre, oh, sorry, a hub

The former Brighstone Library, which has been reinvented as a community hub.

OPTIMISM galore at the former Brighstone Library which, having been a victim of council cuts (Boo!), is now going to be a community hub (Hurrah!)

You can tell this is a plan throbbing with vibrancy if only because they’ve called it a hub. Such a good word. It conveys an image of techno-whizziness, something between a jet engine and the Cern nuclear research operation, only more caring.

Yes, I agree, you could just call it a community centre but hub is better. Well done, Brighstone. Welcome to the 21st century and help yourself to a free bag of jargon as you enter.

Anyway, this hub sounds excellent. It will be used to dispense cheer and advice from health visitors, youth and social workers, an Age UK IW support worker and neighbourhood police teams. A number of villages in the area will also use it as their parish office.

There’s already a nice atmosphere of friendliness about the place. Sgt Mark Lyth says it will allow the community better access to their local policing team. "We are there for help, advice or just to say hello."

I like the last suggestion very much and may well pop into the hub just to say hello to Sgt Lyth and his team. I’ll say "Hello" and presumably they’ll say "Hello, hello, hello" and then I’ll depart, feeling much better for this delightful encounter.

The Rev Helen O’Sullivan says: "We’ll be busy in our new hub but we would still be very keen to hear from any groups that think they would be benefit from using this wonderful new community facility."

What with everything that’s already planned for the hub, I hardly think there’ll be room for any more activities. There’ll be enormous great queues as it is, teenagers, oldies, those wanting advice, and of course stacks of people wanting to take advantage of Sgt Lyth’s exciting new initiative whereby they just say hello.

So rather than add to the queues, the hub might perhaps provide a service for those who are actually in them.

It could put up a shelf and furnish it with books and people could read them while they wait for their turn. It would be like a library, only obviously it wouldn’t be a library because that has been thrown out of Brighstone as being very outdated.

They’ll have to think of a new name for this collection of books which would be offered without charge, something in keeping with a hub. A free-on-demand textual modality interface should do the trick.

l A community library is still available in the village.

Prisoners would find it a turn-up for the books

Even if Brighstone’s hub fails to provide its clients with reading material, there are plenty of other ways to obtain books.

You can borrow from your friends, pick up a bargain at a church fete, get discounted prices at Amazon or even (you sweet old-fashioned thing) buy them from a bookshop.

Actually, we should all be taking the old-fashioned route and using bookshops. Sadly, Amazon plays havoc with our financial and ethical principles and we may all be very sorry one day when we’ve reduced our high streets to faceless tat.

The point, however, is most of us can lay our hands on a book without any difficulty whatsoever.

The same does not apply for prisoners, including those enjoying a stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure on the IW. New rules which came into force six months ago prevent prisoners from receiving parcels from outside unless in "exceptional circumstances". Books are prohibited.

Despite widespread protests, including those from writers such as Alan Bennett and Philip Pullman, the justice minister, Chris Grayling, remains intransigent. Prison, he says, must be "a regime that is more Spartan unless you do the right thing".

Doing the right thing does not, presumably, include nursing a desire to better oneself by self-education through reading. Yes, there are prison libraries but access is frequently restricted and in any case, prisoners are allowed no more than 12 books at a time. Those studying for an Open University degree are often unable to obtain all the resources they need.

This would be fine if Mr Grayling went the whole hog on his Spartan regime and just locked prisoners up without hope of release. This, of course, is what a lot of people would like. Who cares whether they have books or not?

As it is, prisoners are released, regularly on a temporary basis and with apparent little thought for the consequences. Michael Wheatley absconded while on temporary licence earlier this month, his nickname of "Skull Cracker" giving a clue as to the desirability of this man being at large without permission in the community.

The authorities then merrily released Arnold Pickering, who had stabbed a blind man to death, and the attractively swastika-tattoed Thomas Moffett, both of whom failed to return to prison at the appointed time. Well, there’s a surprise.

If these men had been halfway through a gripping novel, they might have returned just to see how it ended.

Still, that’s our prison system for you. Ban books from entering but allow murderers to swan off for a few days. Then scratch your heads when they flout their temporary licences.

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