Friday, 3 December 2010

Library Emergency - The Unkindest Cuts of All

'Who Uses Libraries?', asks Keren David in today's excellent blogpost over on Almost True.  And then she gives a hauntingly all-encompassing list which I urge you to read for yourselves.  In case you hadn't heard or noticed, the UK's libraries are under threat again from cuts.  As Keren says, 'there are those who think that libraries are a soft target', and there are also 'Government ministers who won't protect libraries...because budgets are easier to cut than bankers' bonuses'.  These things are indeed sadly true, but we don't have to accept them as final, nor give in to apathy and despair. 


Before the General Election, our current Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey was vociferous in his support for libraries and against the library closures he called 'cost-driven vandalism'.  Only last February, in a talk to the Society of Bookmen he promised that the Tories would commit themselves to providing 'a first-class library service'.  Where is his passion for libraries now?  In Oxfordshire alone (where Vaizey's Wantage and Didcot constituency lies) no less than 20 libraries are threatened with closure, and they are not the only ones. Libraries everywhere are facing the chop. So, it seems that Vaizey's passion has metamorphosed into a sharp and two-faced cutting axe.

All over Britain, more and more authors are speaking out in public with loud and angry voices about the importance of libraries and the idiocy of closing them.  We are blogging, writing articles, writing to newspapers and MP's, signing open letters and doing all we can to raise public awareness.  Books are a lifeline, an escape, an education--easy access to them via local libraries should be a basic right for all, and most especially for the next generation. 

So I urge you now, if you are passionate about books, reading, learning, education, then join us.  Spread the word.  Make your own angry voices heard in every arena.   Join the Campaign for the Book, run by the wonderful and tireless Alan Gibbons. Because if the libraries go, they won't return.  And that would be a tragedy for all of us. 

PS: For those of you on Twitter, there's now a brand new #CFTB hashtag for Campaign for the Book, and if you wanted to let @edvaizey or @Jeremy_Hunt of the Departure of Culture, Media and Sport know how you feel directly, then please use it to do so.  Let's make this a trending topic for the UK, people. 


Beth Kemp said...

I've added my twopenn'orth as a parent and a teacher. I also linked to your post (along with a few others) - I hope that's ok.

catdownunder said...

We are having the same problem here Downunder - as I pointed out in my blog post today (Saturday 4th). May I suggest (from experience) that what will work best is (a) personal letters to MPs and (b) letters to the editor in newspapers. These are the things that authority takes notice of. I will write too - and point out that closing there will also affect us still further here.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that public libraries are anathema to Tories especially those bent on drastic cuts and are able to trot out the usual "that the public purse needs to be curtailed".

The position of members of the Cabinet and their advisers setting tax levels and spending allocations, whilst having most of their wealth secured from such decisions in suitable tax havens, is pretty much analagous to same members of the cabinet and their families being able to afford their education and personal books without the use of public libraries.
The Public? Let them eat kindle.
(with apologies to Marie Antoinette)

Lucy Coats said...

Aspiring Writer - that's great! Well done.

Catdownunder - yes, the letter writing advice is a timely reminder and good advice. I've done mine too.

Anonymous - no apologies to Marie Antoinette needed. 'Let them eat Kindle'! I love it. Oxfordshire County Council's leader Keith Mitchell said in a statement about the proposed Oxfordshire library cuts: “I fear petitions and protests will not be effective, because, as Liam Byrne – an ex-minister in the Labour government – said in his leaving note: ‘The money is all spent!’”
I fear this cynical and unhelpful approach is widespread among the Government too--but we will NOT shut up and go quietly. Will we?

Ian Anstice said...

246 libraries and 17 mobile libraries are currently under threat in the UK. Full list at

Please let me know of anything not on the list. Thanks for campaigning for the book

Gary Green said...

Lucy, you may be interested in , a national campaign defending public libraries. One of our aims is to present positive personal stories from library users to highlight the value of public libraries in the 21st century. All stories can be submitted via contact details on the website. Members of the team are also questioning the cuts being made to libraries and campaigning on a local level in areas such as Gloucestershire, Leeds & Doncaster. We are also on Twitter as @ukpling. Thank you - Gary

Anonymous said...

"but we will NOT shut up and go quietly. Will we?"

Well, if today's demos at Sir(?) Philip Green's chain of shops, together with the Vodaphone and Boots branches,is any indication I suspect not.

Unfortunately sit-ins at your local library don't have quite the same effect. :(

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