Nearly 100 public library events took place on Save Our Libraries day on 5th February. Whilst many events were held at libraries due for closure, others were run at libraries that were not under threat.
“What’s the point of that?” some people may ask. “What were they protesting for? Their library is safe.”
Here are some comments from people who organised or attended events at those libraries.
Mirfield Library, Kirklees : “Although we had no reason to believe that Mirfield Library was under threat, this was part of a Save Our Libraries campaign led by Roger Johnson. In fact, we heard yesterday that no library in Kirklees will close, and believe this is due in part to the magnificent campaign run by Roger, and to the excellent turn-out at the Read-In.”
Arbury Library, Cambridgeshire : “We’re technically not under threat of closure now, but are anxious re: proposals for a trust, fewer staff & more volunteers. Also raising awareness re: libraries in general and supporting service as a whole. If others in Cambridge shut there’ll be a knock-on effect on us.”
Sheffield Central Library : “The ‘Shush-in’ was to show support of libraries and opposition to cuts.”
Leeds Central Library : “We gathered at Leeds Central Library, which is not itself at threat of closure, however 20 of the smaller branches in Leeds are.”
Gloucestershire Libraries : “Events were held in all libraries open that day because the impact of the cuts at many will have big knock on effect on the remaining ‘hubs’ and staff.”
Cambridge Central Library : “On 5th February I went to the save libraries flashmob in the centre of Cambridge near Cambridge Central Library, even though that library isn’t under direct threat and there are currently no firm plans for the libraries in Cambridgeshire. I went because I wanted to show my support for libraries in general, and to try and raise public awareness of libraries in general and libraries (especially the branch libraries) in Cambridgeshire. I wanted to help communicate the message that libraries are an immensely valuable intellectual and social resource, and that we can all help to preserve them by using them as much as we can. I felt that taking part in a protest in the centre of the town was a good way to reach as many people as possible; people that would never have heard about a protest at one of the branch libraries.” (Katie Birkwood)
Chepstow Library, Monmouthshire : Meg Kingston described this a “as a pre-emptive measure” (South Wales Argus)
People understood that by holding a read-in at these libraries it would show how much they value their own library; it would show support for other public libraries; and it would make councils aware that people do care about what happens to public library services nationwide. It also indicates that people are worried about the future of their own local libraries, even though they may appear to be safe from closure at the moment.
Many other libraries didn’t run events. In some cases this was because users felt the cuts weren’t affecting their local area or local public library. Unfortunately, cuts do affect your library, even if those cuts don’t happen in your local area. If one local authority takes the precedent to close some of their libraries without proper consideration it sends out a message to other local authorities that this is an acceptable action and that libraries are easy targets. Libraries and library users across the country need to show their support for others facing cuts and closure. There are people in every part of the country who rely on the services their local public library provides and these services shouldn’t be taken away from them.
Save Our Libraries day was also a great opportunity for local authorities (providers of library services) to work with library users to celebrate their libraries. It wasn’t just a day to campaign against closures, but many local authorities saw it this way and may well have seen it as a threat. Some council’s actively didn’t want publicity or events, despite the fact that the events were positive, brought more people into the library, increased use and showed that people love their libraries. Why would a library authority not want to show that their libraries are valued by their users?
So, when the next events take place, people should remember that this is an opportunity we shouldn’t miss to show how much we value our public libraries, wherever they are, and that we will fight together to defend them and what they stand for.