Voices for the Library would like to express our disappointment with this morning’s ruling over the future of Brent libraries. We would also like to re-state our support for library campaigners in Brent who have fought so hard to protect their library service for the good of the broader community.
The victory for Brent council sends out a very worrying message for library campaigners everywhere. Council leaders across the country may look to this ruling to justify library closures and will see this ruling as the legal backing they require to go ahead with planned library closures. They would be wrong to do so. Mr Justice Ouseley remarked during this morning’s proceedings that he did not believe the ruling in Brent had wide significance across the country, but instead reflected a judgement purely on how Brent council had approached its local situation. Councils should not, therefore, see this outcome as an excuse to cut their own services in a similar way.
Libraries across the country provide a vital service for many across the boundaries of society. From young and old to rich and poor, libraries provide services for everyone. In the age of the internet it is easy to assume everyone has access to a wealth of free information. The reality is that there are 9 million people in this country who are not connected to the internet. For those 9 million people, the library is the only resource they have. For parents of young children, the library plays an important role in supporting their development and improving their literacy skills. For the elderly it is a vital lifeline to ensure they are not excluded from society.
Those who care about libraries across this country must come together and ensure that this ruling does not have the effect that many council leaders desire. Together we can make a difference. Together we can put pressure on Ed Vaizey to fulfil his commitment as Minister for libraries and ensure that library services across the country are truly comprehensive and efficient. Write to Ed Vaizey and your councillors, get involved in local campaigns, encourage everyone you know to support and use their local library. Together we can stop our library service being totally destroyed by those that do not understand the benefits they bring to local communities.
To the campaigners in Brent, we also say that whilst we share your disappointment, we hope you continue to fight your case at every turn. You can be assured that we will stand and fight with you. Today has undoubtedly been a setback but the outpouring of support for public libraries throughout the day should remind us that our cause is right.
Campaigners from Brent and around the country will be meeting on Saturday 22nd October at University of London Union to co-ordinate efforts. See here for more details.
Brent campaigners have been granted permission to appeal the decision made by Mr Justice Ouseley. The appeal is due to be heard in three weeks.