There seems to be something of a coming trend for libraries to block access to PayDay loan company websites. Birmingham Council is laughably claiming 'moral' reasons. Manchester is doing the same thing. As is Northamptonshire and various others. These all do seem to be at the behest of the local political masters, rather than (thank God) the Library staff themselves. Sorry - maybe I missed this particular lesson, but when was it deemed acceptable for Councils to decide how people should manage their finances by imposing library censorship. And yes, make no bones about it, it's censorship, plain and simple.
When was providing LESS information regarded as a better thing that providing more? I don't particularly like these organisations, but there are lots of things that I don't like, but that doesn't mean that I should have the right to stop the rest of you looking at something. Sure, I get that they charge ridiculous amounts of interest, but it's perfectly clear on (for example) Wonga's website that if I want to borrow £100 for a week, it's going to cost me £12.89 in interest and charges. It's about as clear as it can get. I can then choose to accept that rate or not. Now, how much is it going to cost me if I want to borrow £100 against my credit card for a similar period of time. I have absolutely no idea, and credit card companies are not exactly falling over themselves to tell me either. What about pawn shops? They decide what they'll offer, and what their charges are, but I don't actually see their websites being banned from library terminals.
Wouldn't it make more sense that instead of banning, blocking, filtering and censoring, we actually did the right thing - to provide access to websites and allowed adults to do what - you know - adults can do, which is *make up their own minds*. By all means, and I'd certainly encourage this - provide a page of content on the library website about ways of getting credit, links to lots of different resources, such as credit unions, banks, other financial institutions, websites that help people manage their money and so on. Because I'm sitting and looking at these articles, and these smug self satisfied politicians, who are in some way 'protecting us' from ourselves. If someone is going to want to borrow money, they're going to do that one way or another, and quite frankly I'd rather that they felt safe and secure enough to do some research in a library to find different deals and options than end up down a back alley somewhere borrowing money from some thug. A library needs to be somewhere that anyone can go, safe in the knowledge that they can use it to research and find what they need. Not somewhere that's making a moral judgement on them, not run by a Council that 'knows best' and not somewhere that seems to imply that censorship, rather than education, is the acceptable way to go.
I get that if you're an employee of one of these Councils there's not much that you can do, because quite frankly, if they're prepared to block, ban and limit access to information, they're not going to take too kindly to their employees thinking for themselves, or God help us - actually criticising the smug, self centred patronising councillors who claim to be working on behalf of the community, but instead are using their positions to impose their own will and bullying attitudes on the rest of us. If you're in that situation, you have my entire sympathy.
I don't like PayDay loan companies. I hate that they have to exist, and I hate the fact that they make money from poor, desperate and vulnerable people. But the solution isn't to limit their access and freedom to information and options, it's to provide them with help. The more we censor - for whatever reason, and however laudable it may initially seem, the more it becomes a sensible way of working, and the more we all, as a society get used to it. And that's a worse crime than charging people thirteen quid to borrow a hundred.