We love our libraries - let's protect them
Do you love your local library? Did you read books there as a child? Do you visit as an adult? Libraries are wonderful places where we can learn about our world and travel to other worlds through stories.
This government is putting our libraries under threat with huge cuts to local authority funding. Councils are responding in different ways. Libraries are being closed and many are being run by volunteers. A handful have been privatised.
Libraries are public spaces which belong to everyone in our communities, young and old, rich and poor. We want them to be run by qualified librarians, well funded, well stocked, full of the books we love, alongside the fast computers and technology that people need.
"Libraries, in fact all libraries, hold a hallowed place in my heart. Could there be anything more beautiful, more aspirational, more elegant or more sexy than a public library. It’s a simple concept isn’t it. Get a building, fill it with books, people read them. Yes, I know it’s far more sophisticated than that now, there’s DVDs, CDs, online books and no doubt all manner of other things going on, but the basic concept has a beautiful simplicity. Sharing knowledge for free, a repository where pages and pages of facts, fantasy and fiction can be the gateway to your soul." Anthony Roberts
Once upon a time...
Once upon a time, libraries were created. They were wonderful places where children and adults could read and explore, learn and enjoy. They were public places where everyone in a village, town or city could share books and information.
But then an evil government came into power. The government didn't care about the books and learning, the joy and support that libraries gave people. The government made up a story about 'austerity'. It told councils across the land 'we have to save money'.
Now we're losing our precious libraries - but it's not too late to get them back.
Wtf is going on?
“Libraries are a great and much-loved treasure, and to see them being gradually starved of funds is like seeing a member of the family dying a slow death from some awful disease, for the want of a remedy that’s efficacious and infallible and easy to administer, but which someone is holding deliberately and malevolently just out of reach.” Philip Pullman, children's author, reported in the Guardian
Huge funding cuts from central government are putting our libraries under threat like never before. Councils are under a lot of pressure to close libraries or rely on volunteers instead of trained librarians. Libraries lost £25 million from their budgets last year and the number of public libraries still open reached a 10 year low. Book budgets are being drastically cut.
“The government’s response to libraries being among our most used and trusted public services is to cut budgets and hollow out services.” Nick Poole, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals
Are libraries being privatised?
Your local library is probably under threat from cuts more than privatisation. So far only a handful of libraries have been privatised - although it's bad news when this happens. Hounslow was the first council to privatise its library in 2008. The multinational company Carillion took over the Hounslow contract from John Laing in 2013 and cut staff immediately. It now runs four library services in the UK: Hounslow, Ealing, Harrow and Croydon. Carillion makes millions in profits for its shareholders but Save Croydon Libraries campaigners say it's doing a bad job. The US, where private company LSSI is the fourth largest provider of libraries, offers us a cautionary tale.
“The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that’s all he understands. What he doesn’t understand is enterprises that don’t make a profit, because they’re not set up to do that but to do something different. He doesn’t understand libraries at all, for instance. That branch – how much money did it make last year? Why aren’t you charging higher fines? Why don’t you charge for library cards? Why don’t you charge for every catalogue search? Reserving books – you should charge a lot more for that. Those bookshelves over there – what’s on them? Philosophy? And how many people looked at them last week? Three? Empty those shelves and fill them up with celebrity memoirs. That’s all the greedy ghost thinks libraries are for…” Philip Pullman, children's author, reported in Public Libraries News
Love your library? Get involved
The big baddie here is the government. We need to spread the word: their story about austerity is actually a lie. And we need to join together locally to protect our precious libraries from cuts and privatisation. Find out more and take action:
The future of our libraries is up to us - let's make it a happy ending
Picture credit: Quentin Blake