Tag Archives: cuts

Major concerns over government inaction and lack of leadership

The following press release from UK public library campaigners highlights major concerns surrounding library cuts and the current inaction of the government and its partner organisations to address the issues or provide any leadership in this situation.

DANGER: 1,000 LIBRARIES TO CLOSE

That’s a full quarter of the total in England – all of them small
branches that cost peanuts to run, & are located where people need
them most.

HOW DO WE WORK OUT THIS FIGURE?
201 library service points were closed last year.
A further 336 are threatened with closure (to date) this year.
Arts Council England predicts a further cut of at least 40% by 2016.

WHY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT TELLING YOU THIS?
These are figures you will not see on any official website or press
release. They are compiled by a librarian in his spare time* from
local press reports.

That’s just one example of what is NOT being done by the bodies

responsible for public libraries – the government (DCMS, Department
for Culture, Media & Sport) and Arts Council England (ACE).

AND CLOSURES ARE NOT THE ONLY BAD NEWS
Many libraries have been dumped on to local communities, to run as
best they can.

Many more stay open under council control, but are losing books,
opening hours and skilled staff.

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?
Yet, say library campaigners, the government simply denies there is
any problem. It points to a handful of new library openings, as if
these compensate for mass closures and downgrading.
It ignores all evidence presented to it.
Even worse, it has powers to help – but chooses to do nothing.

WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING
Many campaign groups and hundreds of reports in local media show that
the real situation is bleak. Check the website for yourself*.
For instance….
= Lincolnshire plans that 32 of its 45 libraries, plus an unspecified
number of mobile units, will either close or be passed on to
volunteers. That means losing 170 highly-trained staff (55 FTE) and
177 public access computers.
= Herefordshire decided to close ALL except its one central library –
and is now dealing with a huge outcry from the public.
These are only the latest to see their library service dismantled.
Mass closures have already taken place, from Newcastle to the Isle of
Wight, Gloucestershire to Brent. And about 3,000 professional
librarians have already lost their jobs.

QUOTE
Library campaigner Shirley Burnham says: ‘The Minister, Ed Vaizey, was
vociferous in defence of libraries when in Opposition. But he has
been frozen into inaction since coming into office.
‘He and his officials are in denial, muttering “What crisis?” as
hundreds of libraries are closed, or the keys handed to volunteers –
with no support.’

QUOTE
The Library Campaign is the national group for library users.
Laura Swaffield, its chair, says: ‘Library users have appealed time
and again to the minister to intervene against mass closures. He has a
legal duty to “superintend and improve” the service**. But he does
nothing.
‘And he does nothing about libraries that stay open but now provide a
far worse service. Scotland and Wales have national minimum standards,
but not England.
‘Finally, many communities are now trying to run their own libraries,
as the only way to save them. They get no national help or advice. Not
from the government, not from Arts Council England (ACE).’
At the recent Library Campaign conference in London, Jim Brooks of the
Little Chalfont volunteer-run library in Buckinghamshire reported that
130 volunteer groups have found their way to him, desperate for help.
Laura says: ‘Jim is the only national resource giving advice. It’s absurd!’

FUTURE? WHAT FUTURE?
Brian Ashley, who holds the libraries portfolio for ACE, admitted at
the Library Campaign meeting that libraries face a further 40% cut in
funding. But ACE has no shared plan to help local authorities manage
their resources – or focus on users’ needs.
At most risk are rural
areas and deprived urban areas. If a local library closes, travel to
another one is difficult and expensive. And few have the time, money
or skills to take it over themselves.
Yet libraries offer a lifeline to many people in need – especially to
those with no internet access, families with small children, those in
education and older people. Libraries are the last refuge of a
civilised society and cost next to nothing.

WHITEHALL FARCE
The government’s refusal to intervene verges on the farcical. Bolton
campaigner, retired solicitor Geof Dron, says: ‘The council did not
believe volunteer-run libraries would be sustainable, and simply
closed five libraries.
‘Local campaigners and the Civic Trust asked the Minister to use his
legal powers (ii) to intervene. First his officials lost part of our
submission. Then they refused even to meet with us.
‘The Minister, from the comfort of his Whitehall office, has refused
our request for an inquiry. He expresses no interest in the needs of
the young, the elderly and the disadvantaged of Bolton for literacy,
education and access to computers. He is not prepared even to talk to
us.’

WHAT’S MISSING?
At the same time, many libraries still under local authority control
have lost much of their bookstock, professional expertise and ethos as
cost-free, neutral places of study, reading for pleasure and access to
information (both physical and digital). 
A multiplicity of
consultancy studies and official reports are gathering dust in
Whitehall.
What is missing, however, is any plan by government or its partners to
address the issues or to provide an iota of leadership.
This is despite pleas by the All Party Parliamentary Group, senior
politicians and the professional bodies that represent librarians. As
a speaker at the recent Society of Chief Librarians’ conference said,
the Minister ‘needs to smell the coffee’.

WHAT’S NEEDED?
Campaigners say that much can – and should – be done to halt the
hollowing out or collapse of public libraries. Destroying libraries
signifies incompetence, not necessity.
Notably, a handful of local authorities are protecting or even
enhancing provision under the same economic constraints as others. The
DCMS ignores this evidence of best practice and refuses to contemplate
national standards for libraries, a postcode lottery of service
provision is inevitable. The minister (or ACE) should find out what
works, where and in what circumstances, and use his powers.

DIVIDENDS
Other countries are investing in libraries – from Australia and New
Zealand to China and South Korea.
A high quality public library service that serves the common good and
underpins the nation’s literacy will, campaigners insist, reap
dividends for the national economy.

But only if those responsible for libraries take their heads out of the sand.

===========================================================

www.publiclibrariesnews.com gives a daily breakdown of news reports,
and summaries by local authority area.
No official source does anything like this.

** The Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964 makes it a legal duty for
every council to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library
service. The Secretary of State at the DCMS has a legal duty to
‘superintend and improve’ this service – and legal powers to intervene
if council libraries are failing.

Library closures – challenging the DCMS

We have been asked by Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign to publish the following, regarding intervention requests made to the DCMS by library campaigners and the lack of response to these requests.  Geoffrey asks campaigners to contact him if they feel joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Please read his full request below for further details.

 

Many groups protesting against the closure of libraries in their respective areas will have lodged requests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for intervention under its statutory duties and powers by, in particular, directing the holding of an inquiry into the library authorities’ proposals, in many cases executed in the time which has elapsed since the requests were lodged.

By way of example, Save Bolton Libraries Campaign and Bolton and District Civic Trust lodged their requests, which relate to the closure of five of Bolton Council’s libraries, by 1st February 2012.   In spite of reminders and a letter from the MP for Bolton NE, the DCMS has taken no action in relation to the requests other than seeking further information from the Council, which the latter supplied in February.  The Council’s proposals have been implemented.

It is thought that other groups have been faced with similar inaction on the part of the DCMS.  Indeed, its website reveals that in only one case (Brent) has the DCMS even gone so far as to issue a letter indicating a provisional view (in that case that it is minded not to intervene) but inviting further representations.  It is becoming difficult to escape the conclusion that the DCMS has adopted a policy of inaction in the hope that library user groups will get fed up and go away.

Whether attributable to deliberate policy or incompetence, the delay by the DCMS in dealing with the requests, even allowing for the engagement of Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State, in matters such as the Olympics and the Leveson Inquiry, has reached the point where action to compel it to express its views in ‘minded to’  form is required.  There is a strong case for suggesting that joint complaints ought to be made on behalf of the affected groups to the Parliamentary Ombudsman alleging maladministration in relation to the failure to deal with the requests in a timely manner.  Such complaints, which require endorsement by local MPs and ought to be preceded by advance notification giving a relatively short period to deal with the requests, ought to be lodged with attendant publicity and before the Olympics.

Representatives of groups whose requests for intervention are currently imprisoned in the limbo of the DCMS are asked to contact Geoffrey Dron of Save Bolton Libraries Campaign (geoffrey.dron@gmail.com) if they consider the approach suggested might have merit.  It is hoped to start a discussion on how to move matters forward.   Consideration might be given to a meeting of representatives at a mutually convenient venue, but the first step is probably to find out what the overall appetite is for complaints of maladministration.

Update

In reference to the above request we have received the attached letter as follow up to Jeremy Hunt from Save Bolton Libraries Campaign, which we have been asked to publish here.

Save Bolton Libraries Letter June 2012

The London Libraries Change Programme (LLCP)

The London Libraries Change Programme came into being in 2008 and finished in 2011. It was part of a wider initiative, the London Cultural Improvement Programme, and included the 32 boroughs and the City of London, the regional cultural agencies (Arts Council England, MLA Council, English Heritage and Sport England), London Councils and Capital Ambition and had a remit to improve cultural services in London.

In October 2008, the LLCP Board (1), Chaired by Andrew Holden, Director of Engagement at the MLA and made up of members of the ALCL and other MLA officers, commissioned the consultants RSE to prepare a feasibility study, funded by Capital Ambition, outlining the scope of the programme and the key areas for potential ‘improvement’;

 

  • Leading the sector both externally and internally.
  • Supporting the development of a strong and well utilised workforce.
  • Improving procurement and stock management processes.
  • Modernising service delivery through the use of new technology.
  • Combining skills and resources to undertake marketing and communication.

Four options were given with estimated savings over a five year period;

Option 1: Sharing best practice which is anticipated to yield savings of £1.9 million.

Option 2: Integration of library services with local authority customer services, which is anticipated to yield savings of £3.8 million.

Option 3: Joint management posts are anticipated to yield savings of £5 million.

Option 4: Sub regional library services are anticipated to yield savings of £13 million.

“Overall the potential options combined could save an estimated £2.3 across London in the first year and £19.8 million over five years. “

RSE also made some recommendations, let’s look at some of these in more detail;

2.1.1. The sector needs strong leadership

“There is a perception within the sector that the role and contribution of libraries is widely misunderstood and undervalued. The Association of Chief Librarians and Museums, Libraries and Archives Association (in London and nationally) provide leadership within the sector, but there is a clear view that this role could be strengthened and enhanced”

That the SCL and the MLA ever provided leadership in the sector is highly debateable, SCL members have been accused of pushing through policies that have resulted in cutting the sector and recently were criticised for not fully supporting National Libraries Day and the MLA were seen by many to be ineffectual and instrumental in developing the neo-liberal agenda now prevalent amongst SCL members!

2.1.3. The programme needs to tackle workforce costs and skill development

Staff accounts for 58% of all costs within Libraries……”

“It is recommended that the programme:

f. Benchmark workforce levels and productivity across London…..”

In July 2009 the LLCP Board and the London Cultural Improvement Group commissioned CFE to undertake workforce benchmarking research; the final report was published in October of that year.

“The objective of this was to provide greater understanding of how the London library workforce is utilised and to highlight areas for efficiencies that might arise from joint authority working and the development of shared services.

This report draws together findings from primary research with the library sector and wider stakeholders, and aims to:

  • Benchmark workforce structures across London libraries using a range of input, output and outcome measures to identify drivers of variation in staffing levels and effective working practices.
  • Highlight examples of best practice in staff deployment and document options for shared services, i.e. ways in which local authorities can work together to utilise library staff more effectively.
  • Identify areas where efficiencies can be realised through improvements in workforce utilisation and shared services and provide assumptions about the level of estimated savings achievable. “

The research also highlights potential cuts to the London Library workforce of anything between 1-10%.

It’s very difficult to assess the impact of the programme on subsequent cuts to library services and jobs acrossLondondue to the cuts imposed on Local Authorities by the present Government but all that can be said is that all the authorities involved in the programme have cut staff and services!

Inconclusive I know,  but until a full impact analysis of the programme is made public we will never know!

(1) “The Board comprises of Andrew Holden (Programme Sponsor and Chair) Interim Director MLA London; David Ruse Director of Libraries, London Borough Westminster; Rosemary Doyle Head of Library and Cultural Services, London Borough Islington; Sue McKenzie Head of Libraries London Borough of Brent and President of London Libraries; Cllr G. Reardon, London Borough Waltham Forest; Cllr F. Rea, London Borough Camden; plus Local Authority representatives including HR, resources and library and cultural services tbc and Ken Cole, Advisor, Capital Ambition Ex officio.”

London Library Change Programme Board; Workforce Benchmarking Project; Project Initiation Document Feb 2009

All the reports relating to the Programme can be found at;

http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/policylobbying/culturetourismand2012/lcip/londonlibrarychangeprogramme.htm

Evidence sessions for Parliamentary Inquiry into library closures

The second evidence session for The Culture, Media and Sport Committee Inquiry into library closures will take place on Tuesday 21 February (Committee Room 15, Palace of Westminster).

The Committee will hear evidence from representatives of Arts Council England, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), Isle of Wight Council, Leicestershire Library Services and the Local Government Association.

Further details of the session can be found here.

The session will be screened on the internet via Parliament.tv

The first session saw Abby Barker (Voices for The Library),  Sue Charteris (author of the report on Wirral library closures), Andrew Coburn (The Library Campaign) and Miranda McKearney (The Reading Agency) give evidence.

Below are some of the comments and points raised during that session (paraphrased).

  • Miranda McKearney: The passionate work of campaigners over the past 18 months has started to shift the debate about what libraries mean to us all.
  • Abby Barker: A lot of people making these cuts don’t understand what a library is, or what it does, or what librarians can offer.
  • Andrew Coburn: In local areas libraries offer a social place to build communities, based around services they provide.
  • Abby Barker: Local libraries are important. Not all people can get to the central library branch. There is room for both large ‘destination’ libraries and small libraries to provide services. They complement each other.
  •  Abby Barker: The cuts are focused on books & buildings. Librarians aren’t just there to stamp books. Librarians are there to enhance your experience of the library.
  • Andrew Coburn: A lot of what library staff do is about direction, mediation & assistance. The fewer library staff there are in the system the more difficult it is to get an answer from anywhere in that system.
  •  Miranda McKearney: Even though ‘you clearly have access to the things you need to live your life. Lots of people don’t’. (Response to MP about why libraries are needed)
  • Abby Barker: If comprehensive & efficient could be more clearly defined, local authorities may be able to make better decisions.
  • Abby Barker: Library consultations are being run from the top down and local authorities are not listening to or taking into account users needs.
  • Andrew Coburn: What’s the point of the Secretary of State having powers of intervention if they aren’t used? He needs to “grasp the nettle.”
  • Andrew Coburn: How will volunteer run libraries affect the statutory duties?
  • Abby Barker: Volunteers can add value to a library service, but they shouldn’t be seen as a replacement service.
  • Miranda McKearney: Partnership working on a national level with librarians is difficult because there aren’t enough of them.
  • Miranda McKearney: There are some things you can only do nationally to improve library services – we need a national strategy!
  • Sue Charteris: Local authorities need to look at equalities assessment of local needs.
  • Sue Charteris: Isn’t keen on having more regulations, but feels local authorities need guidance from Secretary of State & Arts Council England.
  • Sue Charteris: Library services need proper communications teams to sell their benefits.
  • Sue Charteris: There has to be a prominent role for librarians in providing public library services. They are key.
  • Sue Charteris: Volunteers are well-placed to do certain things in libraries, but a sound policy on volunteering by local authorities is key.
  • Sue Charteris: The Secretary of State role needs to be more pro-active nationally.
  • Sue Charteris: Current public library legislation needs to be looked at, because it is “cumbersome” and out-of-date.
  • Sue Charteris: Believes that some kind of peer review would be useful to ensure library services are heading in the right direction.

Culture, Media and Sport Committee publish library inquiry responses

Today the Culture, Media and Sport Committee published the written evidence it received for its Inquiry into Library closures.

There were 130 written responses in total from a wide range of individuals and organisations with an interest in libraries. These included:

  • Library user and campaign groups
  • Public library authorities, councils and councillors
  • Library workers, librarians and representative organisations
  • Publishers and booksellers
  • National organisations such as Women’s Institute and UNISON who have been supportive of libraries
  • Charities
  • Individuals
  • Authors
  • Private companies

It is interesting to note the balance of responses from these different groups of respondents, especially from public library authorities. Only approximately 16 authorities or their representatives responded to the Inquiry. Considering that there are over 140 public library authorities in England this is a very low response rate. Compare this to 33 recognisable library user and campaign groups who responded, plus further individuals whose names we recognise as local campaigners.

We look forward to both reading these written responses to the Inquiry and following the oral evidence sessions which start tomorrow morning and can be viewed live here.

Don’t forget that tomorrow is National Libraries Day #nld12

Almost a year ago Save Our Libraries Day was held in the UK. It was a day of action and protest to highlight public library cuts and also a day for library users to celebrate their local libraries.

Many library users and campaigners visited libraries and showed the Government and local authorities that libraries were still important and valued, despite the threat of cuts and closures. Campaigners organised read-ins, storytelling, author events and others just made sure they used their library on that day in some way. It gained national media coverage and was a great success at highlighting the situation our public libraries were facing.

This year, as a follow on, an official National Libraries Day is being held tomorrow and it’s being supported by a wide range of library based organisations.

Unlike Save Our Libraries Day, tomorrow is a celebration of all types of libraries throughout the UK, including public, academic, school, business and specialist libraries. Many organisations running these services have planned events to support the day and are listed on the National Libraries Day site.

Some local campaigners and library users are also organising their own events, not only to celebrate libraries, but also to highlight the fact that local authorities are continuing to cut library services – in fact, it seems as if the cuts situation is even worse than last year. The cuts and closures have not gone away and are likely to continue.

It really is a great opportunity tomorrow for library users to not only celebrate their libraries, but also highlight the fact that if we continue down this route with service reductions and budget cuts there won’t be many libraries left to celebrate!

So please show that you care about and value your library services and make sure you use them tomorrow.

Lobby for libraries over literacy timebomb (13th March)

UNISON, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign, Campaign for the Book and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) have today announced they will hold a joint lobby of Parliament calling on politicians to protect vital library services.

During the lobby, on 13 March, the campaigning group will highlight the importance of libraries in providing access to learning and as a vital lifeline for many communities.

The lobby will take place at:

Midday
Tuesday 13 March
Central Hall
Westminster

Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said:

“Cutting libraries is not an easy solution for councils to save cash – it is a literacy time bomb for deprived communities.

“Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans to force them to take over the running of services, or lose them. These groups don’t have the time, skills and resources to take over the jobs of experienced library staff.

“A shocking 30,000 children are leaving primary school with a reading age of seven or below and libraries are a vital lifeline for community groups. We need a national vision of a modern library service, as an investment in the future generation.”

Ruth Bond, Chair of the NFWI said:

“The NFWI is delighted to support the lobby of parliament. A threat to local library services is a threat to a community’s education and as champions of libraries for the past 96 years, WI members are gravely concerned that so many local authorities are riding roughshod over educational resources while the Government watches in silence. It is simply not good enough to assume that volunteers will step in to continue providing services previously supplied by professionals; the Government cannot rely on community-minded individuals to step into the breach to bridge the gaps, and the loss of professional expertise is irreplaceable.

“Local libraries are a fundamental information and education resource. Whilst in their essence, libraries facilitate access to books and resources, they play a much wider role in promoting shared knowledge and equality of opportunity, facilitating community cohesion, and enabling life-long learning and literacy from cradle to grave.”

Abby Barker, from Voices for the Library, said:

“Voices for the Library are urging anyone concerned for the future of the library service in the UK to get involved on March 13th. This is your chance to tell your MP how vital your local library service is, and to ask them to call the Secretary of State to task over his noticeable lack of involvement. The 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act very clearly puts public libraries under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, however, Jeremy Hunt has yet to intervene on any level, even in the most extreme cases.”

Andrew Coburn, Secretary of The Library Campaign, said:

“Public libraries still have a wide-ranging role in encouraging literacy and education as well as providing literature for leisure and information. MPs need to know what a real 21st century library service can provide – so that they can join the thousands who are trying to prevent their branches being closed and services mutilated.”

Alan Gibbons, Author and Organiser of Campaign for the Book said:

“A reading child is a successful child. The National Literary Trust has found that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who doesn’t.  The UK currently stands at 25th in the PISA International Reading ranking.  Libraries are vital to improving this position.  We have to fight for the defence and extension of public library services.”

Annie Mauger, Chief Executive of CILIP said:

“The professional skills and expertise of library staff are core to providing the public with a quality library service. Volunteers should supplement and enrich a professionally led service, not replace the knowledge and skills of staff. We are concerned that public library services in England are being damaged; the impact will be felt now and in the long term. We urge the Secretary of State to use his powers of intervention where there is clear evidence that the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) has been potentially breached. It is wrong to view public libraries solely as a cost; by providing opportunities for learning and literacy development libraries are an investment in communities, families and individuals.”

You can follow the lobby on Twitter  using the #librarieslobby hashtag.

Outcome of Brent Judicial Review

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.

See here for a response from Unison and here for a response from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Update: 20/10/11

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.

The Library Helped Me Believe In Myself – Sarah’s Story

Sarah Childs provided us with a copy of a letter she sent to MP Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport), which we wanted to share with you.

Dear Mr. Hunt,

I am writing to you regarding the cuts that are being proposed to library
services across the country. I should begin by stating that I am currently
training to be a librarian, but my objections to these proposals are as a
citizen, not as a library school student.

I am fortunate enough to be from a household where there were plenty of
books, and as I grew older, an internet connection. However, I still used
the library service widely as it allowed me to make my own decisions about
what I wanted to read, rather than my parents making those choices for me.
As a somewhat shy child, whose lack of confidence held me back at school
early on, the books I took out of the library helped me believe in myself,
and my school marks quickly improved.

When I grew older, and I was applying to university, I used my local and
school libraries to do the extra reading to help me clinch a place at the
University of Cambridge. I was the only person from my state school who got
a place at Oxbridge, and I firmly believe it was due to* *not only the
reading I had done specifically for the interview, but also all the
information I had imbibed from a young age in the library.

As you will know from your own education, the libraries at Oxbridge are
absolutely outstanding, and I remained amazed and fascinated by all the
information at my disposal. Additionally, the money I saved from barely ever
having to buy a book could be used for other purposes, such as a trip to
Sweden to assist me with my dissertation.

However, whilst at university, it became clear to me that not everyone had
this same reverence for the libraries at our university. I remember speaking
to a boy in the year below who had been at a private school, and was just
about to start his first year of his degree. He said to me, “Well, *of
course*, ALL the key texts on our reading list were in my school library, so
I’ve read them already…” It had never even occurred to me previously that
anybody at any school would have such high level sociological and political
texts in their school library.

I do not want the above story to read as an attack on private schools.
Rather, I think it shows the massive disparity between different groups in
our society in terms of their access to information. Last year, I lived in
the London Borough of Hackney and it became clear to me whenever I used the
public libraries, that there were some people there who were very dependent
on the library service. I often saw people in there who appeared to be using
it to support their businesses, such as selling things on the internet.

I feel that it is very easy to dismiss the importance of libraries in the
digital age but in fact the access that libraries are providing to e-books
and the internet are all the more vital. In difficult economic times, these
resources, alongside the help of trained, paid and dedicated staff can make
all the difference in someone’s life. Just like that boy I spoke to at
university, I worry that some of the people making these decisions about
libraries do not appreciate what it is like to not have all the information
you could want within easy reach.

I therefore urge you to do anything in your power to stop library cuts,
whether they are in the form of charging for internet use, a decrease to the
book funds, or outright library closures. Thankyou for reading this email –
I only hope you act upon it.

Yours sincerely, Sarah Childs