IF there's one thing any public body should know, you don't touch the libraries without being fully prepared for fury.

People are passionate about their libraries, they romanticise them.

Some people attend their local libraries. Others have a passionate relationship with them that transcends the building.

They are special spaces where anyone, no matter their background or income, can find a vast wealth of information and story and magic.

Libraries are vital centres for communities, providing access to the internet or cancer support services or job searching or links to local politicians.

They are spaces where frazzled mums meet with tiny newborns and everyone feels safe.

So no, you don't mess with libraries and expect to get away with it.

Which is why the Glasgow Life botched handling of the future of the city's libraries has come as some surprise.

The way the cuts have been spoken about is irresponsible.

Susan Aitken said that all venues would reopen and that any suggestion to the contrary was scaremongering.

Now venues will close.

But the council leader refuses to use the c-word and instead says resources are moving or merging.

Councillor David McDonald has apologised for the way the announcements were made and subsequently handled but the damage is done.

From speaking to library campaigners over the past week, supporters are distrustful of the council and of Glasgow Life.

They thought their campaigns last year - read-ins outside Govanhill, Langside and Pollokshields libraries; the petitions; the backing from Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie - had made a difference.

Now they're back to square one and they're not sure what's going on.

It's understood that at Langside Library there has been water damage to the ceilings and floors which needs to be dried out before work can begin.

This doesn't seem to have been talked about publicly.

At Pollokshields Library repairs were due to begin before the pandemic lockdown.

Last November community members started asking Glasgow Life if the works were underway, or were in the planning.

I asked the question too but didn't receive a clear answer.

If repairs are needed then it seems odd not to be open and transparent about it and adds to the sense of campaigners' worries that something else is afoot.

This whole debacle has raised big questions about how our civic buildings, our historic buildings, are maintained and paid for.

There is, firstly, a strong argument that they should be brought back into council control.

I noticed a little while back that Glasgow Life had started referring to itself as "a charity" in press releases and public information in a way that it hadn't previously.

Of course, it is a charity.

But it is a charity set up, as the other arm's-length council organisations were set up, by Glasgow City Council as a way to generate additional funding from charitable trusts and bodies such as lottery funding.

When the Aleos were established 12 years ago they were seen as a tax wheeze - a claim denied by the council.

There was some controversy around their creation and in the transfer of council housing stock to Glasgow Housing Association.

It was a move this newspaper kept a close eye on with story after story raising concerns about how the arm's-length bodies were being used to cover financial black holes.

Unions raised multiple concerns about pay and conditions for staff and there were questions raised about the accountability of the organisations.

That all feels like a very long time ago.

In 2018, Glasgow's councillors voted to bring two of the city's largest arms-length external organisations (ALEO) back under local authority control - Cordia and Community Safety Glasgow.

At the time, Unison lobbied to have our seven remaining Aleos brought back into full council control.

So yes, Glasgow Life is a charity but it's an Aleo registered as such to reap the benefits of charity status and the new trend of describing itself as a charity at every opportunity seemed to be a sign that all was not entirely well.

There's also a broader issue of tax funding for these venues. Strathclyde Region was split up because it was too large and unwieldy. But there's, again, an argument to be made for having a Greater Glasgow local authority, as with Greater Manchester, to bring funding from the wealthy suburbs into the city.

Our libraries, and our other civic facilities, are precious and must be protected. It's time for big conversations and radical thinking to ensure just that.