Tag Archives: public libraries

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.

Michael’s Story – Thank You to Fulham Library

Michael shares his powerful story, and thanks the staff at Fulham Library, which was so important to him during a difficult time when he was a child.

Michaels story - a letter to Fulham Library

Michaels story – a letter to Fulham Library

OPEN LETTER

26 March 2016
To the staff of Fulham Library

Dear librarians/staff

THANK YOU FOR BEING THERE WHEN I NEEDED YOU MOST

On the eve of my retirement it now seems like the right time to write and say a very personal thank you to the local Ibrary of my youth – Fulham Library – which I used from the age of 6. The library and staff played an important part in my life more so than they realised.

They did not know it but the library staff back in the early 1960s helped me through a difficult time.  When l was a young child I was sexually assaulted by a stranger. l was strong enough
to fight back and get away but not strong enough to tell my parents nor anyone else – not for
more than 50 years. I now know that what happened was relatively minor in the scheme of
things. But to my younger self it was a horrible thing. The assault was relatively brief but the
bad dreams lingered. My local library helped me get through the worst of it. lt was a place of
safety for me – a refuge. l felt safe with the ‘Iibrary lady.’ She was neiher parent nor
teacher. She did not tell me what to do but she was there to help me and did. There were
times when I was reading one book a day but even at that rate I could not read them all but each one took me on a journey and soon the bad dreams gave way to good ones.

When I look back through my life and consider where my various interests began the vast
majority can be traced back to a book that I first read at your llbrary. Even my love of
classical music came from you. Do you remember how long it took to check the vinyl
records? What a pain.

I came back to visit the other day. Lots of people there. Far busier than I remember. Times
have changed and so has the library – for the better. One thing hasn‘t changed. A member
of staff was still there in the children’s section. Sometimes I wonder how my life might have
turned out if there was no one there? What matters though is that the library and staff were
there for me when I needed them most and for that I am eternally grateful.

More than 50 years have now passed so I can no longer thank the individual librarians
directly but there will be others like myself who have been helped over the years. On behalf
of us all. I would like to extend my thanks to librarians past. present and future wherever and
whenever they may be. The world is a much better place with libraries and librarians.

Yours sincerely

Michael J Keane
Library User

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.

Talk Radio Europe interview about library cuts

Earlier this month librarian Tim Parkin was interviewed on Talk Radio Europe discussing library cuts in the UK. The full interview can be listened to below.

As Tim in his interview rightly says “…a cut of £1,000,000 from a service is never going to leave it better. It will always leave it worse.”

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.

 

mylibrarybyright-social-small

Karen’s Story

I remember fondly my experiences of studying at Liverpool Central Libraries in 1985/86. My friend and I would go a couple of evenings a week to revise for our ‘O’ levels. We both didn’t have much space at home so this was a perfect refuge to escape to and imagine our ‘glittering’ futures. The Picton and the International library were my favourite spaces. I visited recently and was disappointed that it had moved on with the times in terms of the number of computer terminals which I know is inevitable. My love of books has never dimmed and I love the presence of the Portico and the National Art Library at the V & A which still provide a refuge from modern life.