Category Archives: team blog posts

An Announcement and Final Blog Post from Voices for the Library

In the current climate, the fight for our public services is ongoing. This is no less true for public libraries, a service that continues to see severe cuts, hollowing out, mass closures and deprofessionalisation. Although the main focus of Voices for the Library was initially on the situation facing public libraries, we quickly came to recognise that the assault on public libraries is part of a wider assault on public services. It was not enough merely to speak out for public libraries, it was (and continues to be) a fight for public services in general and against the programme of austerity that is demonstrably unnecessary.

Unfortunately, we ourselves are volunteers running an organisation in our spare time. We are unhappy to say that we can no longer undertake the work required to be a voice for public libraries. It is with great sorrow that we have decided that it’s time to close the doors on Voices for the Library. The irony of this is not lost on us. As libraries are increasingly forced onto local community groups to run them on a so-called voluntary basis (there is nothing “voluntary” about it), we are clear that there is only so much volunteers can do before reality hits and the service starts to fall apart at the seams. Volunteer run libraries are, in essence, a disaster waiting to happen for the people that rely on their local public library service (and it is theirs, not the councillors).

Over the past seven years, we have tried to shine a spotlight on the plight of our public library service. We have aimed to provide a voice for the service in the media when there was none. Our work has prompted others that were previously quiet to get involved, to speak out, to highlight the importance of the public library service. As we look back on our work through Voices for the Library, although the future of public libraries does not appear to be what we were fighting for, we hope our work has had some impact and caused local authorities and the national government to give pause to the swingeing cuts they would happily have enacted across the UK had they not been challenged.

We are proud of what Voices for the Library has achieved with limited resources beyond a strong network of passionate people.

This includes:

  • Supporting campaigns at a national and local level to help them develop strategies and approaches;
  • Participation in the Speak Up For Libraries coalition to develop solidarity across the UK;
  • Responding to local and central government inquiries and being involved in discussions with ministers; including giving evidence at a Select Committee hearing, to lend our expertise and inform policy;
  • Over a hundred media interviews in response to library cuts to give voice to library users and library workers, explaining the damaging impact of spending cuts for individuals and society;
  • Highlighting through our website, social media and other publications that public libraries have significant social value and that their loss will be felt in many areas of life.

The end of Voices for the Library does not mean the end of the fight. Individually we will continue to speak up for libraries and defend them in the face of an ideology that threatens all of our public services. We will continue to support and give voice to the fight not only for libraries, but against a crippling economic obsession by politicians and large swathes of the media that is irreparably damaging our public services.

In spite of the unhappy nature of the reason we came together to set up Voices, we will be taking so many happy memories with us. This is in no small part due to the friends we have made along the way. We would like to thank all of those who have supported us and that have joined with us in speaking up for the public library service over the past seven years. We’d especially like to thank everyone who’s contributed through membership of Voices: Johanna Anderson, Ian Anstice, Abigail Barker, Simon Barron, Phil Bradley, Adrienne Cooper, Mick Fortune, Alice Halsey, Sarah Lewis-Newton, Mandy Powell, Jo Richardson , Christine Rooney-Browne, Bethan Ruddock, Katy Wrathall, and Alan Wylie.

Finally, we offer solidarity and thanks to all library users and library workers who continue to defend their service against those who seek to destroy it.

Gary, Ian, Lauren and Tom.

M is for Merry C is for Christmas – Free #LibraryAtoZ materials

The #LibraryAtoZ project (we mentioned this previously on the site) has more free note/greeting  cards to distribute. So, at this time of year it would be a great opportunity to send them as an extra special festive greeting to your local library funders etc and remind them of why we love our libraries. Or maybe you’d like to use them in another way to spread the message about the value of public libraries. That’s fine too.

If you would like some sent to you for free please fill in the contact form on the Library A to Z site.

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Thousands Attend Libraries, Museums and Galleries Demo #5thNovDemo

On Saturday around 3,000 library, museums and galleries staff, supporters and campaigners, including many authors, and a few politicians from around the country met at The British Library for a rally and march to The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square in opposition to cuts in these sectors. It was great to see so many supporters gathered at an event to show how much they cared about these services. The march began and ended with passionate speeches from people such as Lord John Bird, authors Michael Rosen and Philip Ardagh, as well as campaigners from areas affected by the cuts that have been steadily ongoing around the country for the past 5 years. As we marched along Euston Road, onto The British Museum and down to The National Gallery holding the Speak Up For Libraries banner along with other library workers, the support we and the other few thousand marchers received from drivers and passers-by was more than appreciated.

Though the march and rally was a success it really does need to be just the start. Along with other campaigners, Voices for the Library we have been fighting these cuts for the past 5 years, and as they still continue to bite harder we will still need to continue to fight them along with the many other campaigners, library supporters and staff around the country. Indeed further rallies and marches are planned across the country already.
For more coverage of the rally and march take a look at the links below.
Thanks to the organisers, including Voices for the Library team member, Alan Wylie for organising such a successful day.

Demonstration for libraries, museums & galleries (5th November)

It’s not just libraries facing cuts. Other cultural services are at risk too. With this in mind, there will be a national demonstration on 5th November in London in support of libraries, museums and galleries. It starts at The British Library (12 noon) and will finish at Trafalgar Square/The National Gallery. Please show your support for this important demonstration in any way you can. Representatives from Voices for the Library will be there, and we hope to you can be too.

Further details about the demonstration will be posted in September.

Libraries, museums and galleries demonstration poster

Speak Up For Libraries – crisis or opportunity?

Today saw library public library supporters and workers participate in a rally and lobby of Parliament. During the rally, Voices for the Library member Alan Wylie delivered this powerful speech and highlighted important issues about the future of our public libraries.
I’m going to start by posing a question
 
Is the current situation facing libraries a crisis or an opportunity?
 
I suppose the answer depends on who you are.
 
If your library has been cut or closed then it’s a crisis
 
If you’re isolated, vulnerable, elderly and or disabled and your housebound or mobile service has been cut then it’s a crisis
 
If you’re a job-seeker and there are no trained staff to help you with Universal Jobmatch and you risk being sanctioned then it’s a crisis
 
If you’re poor with young kids and your local library now charges for Under 5’s and Babybounce sessions then it’s a crisis
 
If you’re a young person and can no longer access the new staffless library then it’s a crisis.
 
If you’re a library worker whose health is suffering due to stress and short-staffing or you’ve been made redundant then it’s a crisis
 
On the other hand if you’re Ed Vaizey, the government, a ‘transformation’ consultant or a privatiser then it’s one big opportunity!
 
An opportunity to commercialise
 
An opportunity to privatise
 
An opportunity to attack local communities and the public services they rely on
 
An opportunity to attack the right to:
 
reading
knowledge
Information
Community empowerment, resilience and democratic involvement
 
An opportunity to undermine and erode the public library ethos.
 
Naomi Klein, the American writer, thinker and activist, in a speech she gave in 2003 to a bunch of North American librarians, said that library workers uphold certain key values and of these is;
 
“Public Space as opposed to commercial and private space)”
 
NOT commercial or private but PUBLIC; this value, this belief is crucial if libraries are to remain safe, trusted, inclusive, accountable and democratic public spaces.
 
Recently the Society of Chief Librarians launched a partnership with Halifax Bank to put 2000 of its ‘Digital Champions’ in libraries, this is the same Halifax Bank that was involved in a major data privacy breech.
While the UK library establishment invites banks into libraries in, the US Alison Macrina and the Library Freedom Project are teaching library staff how to teach library users to be safe and private online. We on this side of the Atlantic seem to be going backwards.
 
It doesn’t help matters that the Chair of the National Libraries Taskforce, on which the SCL sits, is an outsourcer who has failed to bring users, front-line staff, campaigners, LIS academics and unions on board. I wonder why?
 
We need to be very clear that we don’t want or need Halifax, Barclays, BT, Amazon or Google in libraries.
We don’t want our public library space invaded by commercial interests.
 
We don’t want our libraries run by blacklisters.
 
We don’t want our libraries run by suspect Social Enterprises.
 
We don’t want our libraries run by mock mutuals or trusts you can’t trust.
 
We don’t want our libraries run by a sub-section of the community with a gun to their head.
 
We want and we need local libraries funded and managed by councils and run by paid and trained staff in consultation with and for the benefit of all.
This is not negotiable.
 
We therefore demand that the government;
 
Cease its attack on public services
 
Enforces the law relating to libraries
 
Acknowledges that libraries are important and crucial to people
 
and gives libraries a long-term future
 
So when you lobby your MP later be sure to make it clear that it’s not just the bricks and mortar of the library building and the skin and bones of the library worker you’re fighting for it’s also the heart and soul of the service, the ethos.
Because without this to ground us we’re cast adrift, sunk.
 
I’ll end with another Naomi Klein quote;
 
“The best way to stay public is to be public – truly, defiantly, radically public”
Thank you to everyone who attended the rally and lobbied their MP today. Raising the profile of public libraries in this way, and highlighting the critical situation they are in, serves to keep libraries in the minds of the politicians.

National Libraries Day 2016

Don’t forget that this coming Saturday is National Libraries Day.

If you’re still looking for last minute ideas try the National Libraries Day site.

If you’re running an event add it to the site here. You can also find events in your local area via that link too.

If you’re tweeting, the hashtag has changed and is now #librariesday. In previous years the hashtag has trended on National Libraries Day and it would be great to see this happen again.

Following on from National Libraries Day there’s also a lobby of Parliament happening for public libraries – everyone is welcome to come along. Take a look at the Speak Up For Libraries site for more details.

 

 

Speak Up For Libraries Lobby of Parliament on 9 February 2016

Voices for the Library representatives will be joining other members of the Speak Up For Libraries coalition at the lobby of Parliament for libraries on 9th February 2016 at Central Hall Westminster.

This lobby of Parliament is open for all to attend, whether you are a library user, library campaigner, or a library worker – anyone who supports public libraries.

Full details of the lobby can be found on the Speak Up For Libraries site, along with details of how you can book a free place.

Join us, and show your support for public libraries on 9th February.

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My Library By Right Campaign

We welcome CILIP’s recently launched campaign, My Library By Right, which champions the call for access to quality public library services, including:

  • The public’s rights to libraries to be recognised and respected
  • Public libraries to be treated as the statutory services they are
  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to carry out their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act
  • Statutory guidance for local authorities on their duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act from DCMS, with support from CILIP and the library and information profession

The campaign has also resulted in a petition to MP John Whittingdale (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport), which we would encourage everyone to sign.

CILIP have also suggested showing your support for the campaign in the following ways:

Full details of the campaign can be found here.

 

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Your thoughts wanted about volunteer-led libraries

A few years ago, public libraries run by volunteers were almost unheard of. But more and more local authorities are turning to the idea. And more and more local people are taking them on as the only way to ‘save’ them.

Speak Up For Libraries (a coalition of organisations and campaigners, including Voices for the Library) wants to hear from anyone with a view about these volunteer-led libraries in the UK, whether they are a volunteer, a library worker or a library user.

Let us know, via SpeakUp4Libraries@gmail.com :

  • What works well and what doesn’t?
  • What are the challenges and considerations?
  • What is the impact on the library service and what do you see as the future?

The information will be used to inform SUFL’s advocacy.  A summary of the evidence will be published.  All information received will be anonymised unless specific permission has been given to identify the contributor and the names of library or library service.

Please email queries, comments and information to SpeakUp4Libraries@gmail.com

(Originally posted on the Speak Up For Libraries site)

2015 General Election Manifesto – Speak Up For Libraries

The Speak up for Libraries alliance (which includes Voices for the Library) has updated its election manifesto in time for the 2015 General Election. It is urging people everywhere to make public libraries a central issue in the General Election and local elections.

Already, many library services are threatened by, or already experiencing, deep cuts, widespread closures of vital local branches – or the damaging policy of turning them over to volunteers to run.

This is a once-in-five-years chance to make sure central government understands that libraries are a low-cost, essential resource for the work of local councils, and for national agendas such as ‘Digital by Default’ – and deeply valued by local residents and the nation as a whole.

Speak up for Libraries believes that libraries, far from being obsolete, are more important than ever. That is why we are asking the government to make a public commitment to their survival and development.

Speak up for Libraries is asking MPs to sign up to the following manifesto when standing for election:

  • Give libraries a long-term future, with a vision for their future development and clear standards of service.

  • Enforce the commitment in law for local authorities to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library service. This commitment should also include digital, ICT and e-book services.

  • Acknowledge that libraries are important to individuals and communities – especially in times of hardship.

  • Enforce the duty that local authorities have to properly consult with communities to design services that meet their needs and aspirations.

  • Ensure that local authorities receive sufficient funding in order to deliver properly resourced and staffed library services.

  • Recognise that properly resourced library services contribute to the health and well-being of local communities and of society as  a whole and therefore complement the work of other public services and of national government agendas.

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Full details of the election manifesto, including downloadable copies, can be found on the Speak Up For Libraries site.