Sunday Salon: A week of protest

Much of the last week has been spent in fighting proposals to turn our local branch library from a professionally run service to one that is operated or maybe even managed completely by volunteers. We first heard there were changes in the wind in April but at that point our branch was save apart from a few reduced opening hours. Without warning in August that changed and suddenly our local library was slated for downgrading so our local authority can fill a £32M funding gap over the next three years.

We were promised these were just proposals and no decisions had been taken. Further statements were made that “our intention is not to close libraries”. Well, guess what, when the consultation document came out this week the first question was ‘woullibrary heart logod you support community led libraries as an alternative to their closure?’ What a biased question and one that is impossible to answer without giving the council what we now believe the want – a mandate to close libraries yet masquerading this as being what their citizens want.

A local protest group has now been formed and I’ve found my evenings and the weekend rapidly developing campaign posters, putting an action plan together, contacting the media etc.

Problem is that this is happening all over the country as councils see a diminishment of the public library service as a relatively easy way to cut costs; much less emotive than closing a school or a day care centre for the elderly. Anyone who has a household budget understands the challenge of having to make savings. We’re not stupid in thinking that the local authority is any different and can suddenly magic up more money but the approach they are taking is very short sighted. What doesn’t seem to be really under consideration is the long term impact on literacy and on elderly people who live alone and use a trip to the library as a way to keep in touch with people.

If we were asked to volunteer to help the existing librarians, to run reading groups for children or restock the shelves etc, there would be plenty of people coming forward. But few people are willing to do this and see librarians lose their jobs as a result. This is something that warrants a considered debate not simply a checkbox questionnaire.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on October 19, 2014, in Sunday Salon and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Good luck! I am always on the side of librarians and libraries no matter what. They are so very important to a community and government always thinks that they somehow aren’t in spite of real evidence that says otherwise.

    • It seems odd to me that years of experience and training can be so easily brushed aside in the interests of coat cutting. No-one would ever contemplate having a volunteer fix your teeth or build a bridge would they so why is a non professional approach ok for libraries

  2. So sad to hear this. It’s never a good day when services are cut because their “non-essential.” Especially as libraries are such a great community building space! Good luck with the campaign!

  3. Are there really only two choices here: close or be completely run by volunteers? Who are the librarys’ natural allies? Do you have enough data to prove the value of the library — upswing in circulation, number of visits? Can the school staff testify to the value for homework support? Good luck, Booker!!!

    • Thats the only choice they are giving us but it’s framed in such a way that its a threat rather than a choice. The school is certainly supporting us and so are the local councillors. Thanks for your moral support!

  4. It is a sad state that libraries are slowly being underfunded and closed. I use to get a report from Google once a week on all the library closings. My local library helps support the community in many ways and is a necessary part of our town, as it is in most communities. Good luck in your protest!

    • its frightening to see how widespread this approach is. I suppose once one authority comes u with a way to save money they all think its ok and just copy them.

  5. What an annoying and frustrating situation. Community-led libraries indeed! My aunt used to work for Slough council and she used to have hair-raising tales of wasted funds (whole sets of office furniture that nobody used, etc). Alas so many councils are poorly run that vital services like libraries are under threat for no reason of their own. The best of luck to your protest group (but do let me know if you fancy one of the books I emailed about for SNB).

    • There is certainly a massive amount of wastage – they just turn a blind eye to that though.
      As for SNB – sorry but I don’t think I’ve seen your email. I’ll have another look though

  6. 100% agree, volunteers are NOT not professional librarians, they may be well intentioned but librarianship is a serious job and I for one respect this too much to ever vote for their replacement. Libraries are an essential part of our communities and it is a disgrace that they be closed.

  7. One of the interesting side effects of Birmingham having invested so much in the new library (a commitment it would have got out of it it could, I understand) is that they simply daren’t close any of the branch libraries because of the outcry there would be. So far we have had many other cuts but our tiny little local library (not much bigger than my living room) still goes on.

  8. I am fortunate to work and live in a community that values its library system. I wish you luck in maintaing a vital part of your future.

  9. I understand your viewpoint.

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