Want to get involved in saving libraries? Here’s some advice about what you can do to help protect the UK’s public libraries, along with some campaigning tips, and links to resources.
As an individual
If you value your local library, tell the librarians. Fill in a comment card – either in the library or online. If there is a problem with your local library, tell a librarian. Management and councils listen to suggestions made by the public. Remember, libraries are provided for you.
Take part in your council’s consultation. Most consultations are available online from the council’s website. You should also be able to pick up a consultation sheet from your local library.
Email, write, or call your local councillor and your MP. Remember, they work for you. Even if there aren’t currently any cuts planned in your area, it might be useful to inform councillors and MPs that you value your public libraries. If you have a friendly councillor, get them to ask for a named vote when it comes down to council meetings deciding on closures (this means each councillor’s vote is recorded and so they are more accountable to the public). You can find out more about your MP at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ and you should be able to contact them through http://www.writetothem.com/ Other prominent figures to contact include Ed Vaizey who holds responsibility for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Eric Pickles the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. An example of such a letter is this one written by Carolyn Carter to her local councillor in Somerset.
Write to local or national newspapers. They’re interested to discover what the public care about. If you’re organising a campaign, local media can be a good resource to attract more people in your community to your cause.
Spread the word to friends and family, and try to make more people in your community aware of any potential cuts or closures. You’ll be able to do much more as a group than you would alone.
As a group
The most important thing to do is to connect with other people: to find others who believe as you believe and who may already be working hard towards saving libraries in your area.
Take a look at the map of library closures to find what is planned for your area and then get in contact with local campaigns. Get in touch with the Public Libraries News website to report proposed cuts and closures in your area.
If there are no campaigns currently in your area and you would like to protect your local libraries, set up a group. Here are some useful resources available for people setting up campaign groups:
Basic Petitioning: advice on basic petitioning from Somerset.
Letter to schools from campaigners in Somerset.
Using deprivation indices – a guide by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries. If you fear your authority has not paid proper regard to poverty and deprivation in making their library service plans, this can be an excellent way of illustrating or proving this point.
Submission from the Friends of Sonning Common Library to Oxfordshire County Council regarding the proposed closure of Sonning Common Library.
Documents from the Wirrall Library enquiry: Final Statement of Case to the Wirral Libraries Inquiry – ‘Save Eastham Library’ Campaign and Final Summary Proof of evidence to the Wirral Libraries Inquiry – ‘Save Eastham Library’ Campaign Proof of Evidence
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has a handy campaigning toolkit available to anyone.
Create posters and fliers for your local campaign and distribute them to places that the community will see: schools, churches, Post Offices, coffee shops, pubs and bars, bookshops. There is a guide on how to make a library protest sign from teen librarian, and a great set of library campaigning posters from Phil Bradley. We also have VftL posters available for download.
Set up a petition. It varies from council to council as to how many names on a petition one needs in order to force a debate. If you are planning to set up a petition, we suggest you contact your council first to see what their requirements are.
Using social media
Set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account & keep letting people know what you are doing via them and any information you have about library cuts in your area.
A good example of a local library campaign Twitter account is @foglibraries (Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries). The easiest way to do it is to try and tweet at sensible times when most people are awake… eg. late morning or late afternoon.
Pick up links related to your area by looking at newspapers online. Online newspapers often give the option to share stories via Twitter and Facebook via a button. This will save you time shortening the web address and coming up with a piece of text to go into your tweet/Facebook update.
Let us know if you have any new web presence eg. blog etc, are arranging events, meetings, petitions, so we can publicise them on the Public Libraries cuts map, and our Facebook account & Twitter account (@VftL_UK).
Set up a blog to let people in your area know what is going on. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and Save Doncaster Libraries are good examples of what to post and how to keep everyone informed. You can also let people know you have new information added to your blog by posting links to Twitter & Facebook accounts automatically.
Set up an e-petition as well as a paper one. Both Gloucestershire & Doncaster have set up their own. Please see
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savedoncasterlibraries/ & http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=8 for ideas.
If you run an event, a protest or hold a meeting, film it and post it to Youtube. you can also let people know that the video is there by adding a link to your Facebook page, blog or tweet the link.
If you need more information about libraries in your area, a Freedom of Information request can get you real data and statistics. Local government should have records of how many people use your local library, how many loans your library has, and how many reservations are being made. Councils should respond to FOI requests within 20 working days so plan ahead and make sure you don’t put in the request too late for the data to be useful.
Make sure that you request stats on:
* Number of visits
* Number of loans
* Number of PC bookings
* Book fund
* Unplanned closures
Each of these should be requested for the past 5 years in order to determine trends in the data. Ensure that you specify that you require these stats from each library (otherwise they may just provide a grand total).
For more information on FOI requests, please see ‘A quick guide to FOI for voluntary organisations‘.