British Library Board (Power to Borrow) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:10 pm on 13th March 2020.

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Photo of Bim Afolami Bim Afolami Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 12:10 pm, 13th March 2020

I agree so strongly, as somebody who owns well over a thousand books. My wife is always complaining that I buy more books than I can read.

The philosopher/hedge fund manager Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a famous book called “The Black Swan”, but in his book “Antifragile” he makes the persuasive point that if we really want to judge how long a type of technology will be around, we should look at how long it has already been around, because that actually tells us more about it than anything else. In every single age, we all think that the new thing will be the thing that endures, but of course what tends to happen is the new thing is replaced by another new thing and so on. Books are not a new thing. Books have been around for a long time, and I am sure that books will be around for centuries to come.

Before I conclude my remarks, to everybody’s joy—[Interruption.] There was too much laughter from the Whip at that. What is the point of libraries in the modern world? We have talked about access to learning, digital, soft power and levelling up, all sorts of things, but the real point, I think, of libraries—and where the British Library is so important and why it needs this power—is that libraries help to strengthen communities. They help to provide a place for people to go, where they can come together, but yet be solitary at the same time. Thriving libraries in our communities, in our towns, cities and villages all across the country, are one of the things that if we can support them in this Parliament—and the British Library can help play its role in doing that—we will be serving our constituents very well indeed.

The Bill is a small but critical piece of legislation to help strengthen our communities, to help level up the country, to help improve our soft power, to help bring the British Library into the modern world, and to help improve the access that entrepreneurs and people who want to start their own business have to quality advice. It is a small thing, but it could become a big thing, and it could be a big thing for all our constituents and in all our constituencies. I ask the House to support the Bill.