Tag Archives: action

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:

Tuesday 13 March
Central Hall

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.

Women’s Institute petition in support of public libraries

As we reported in June, the Women’s Institute passed the following resolution at their Annual General Meeting in defence of public libraries.

“This meeting urges H.M. Government to maintain support for local libraries, as an essential local educational and information resource.”

Since then, they have introduced their “Love Your Libraries” campaign, as a way of coordinating action through local W.I. members and federations.

This co-ordinated action includes writing to councillors and leaders of local councils to express support for public libraries and to highlight the “Love Your Libraries” campaign.

Members were also asked to sign a petition raised by the Women’s Institute in support of libraries. It states:

I, the undersigned, believe that libraries are an essential local educational and information resource yet with many libraries under threat, the future of the library service is at risk. I want to see the value of libraries recognised at both local and national levels and I am calling on the Government to honour both its commitment to act as a champion of the library service, and its duty of oversight to ensure that a comprehensive and efficient library service is provided.

This petition is now available on the Government’s e-petition site and can be signed by anyone, not just W.I. members. If over 100,000 signatures are received for this petition by 05 February 2012 the Government will be forced to debate the situation in The House of Commons.

So, if you want to help protect library services in the U.K. please take the time to sign the petition and encourage friends and family to do the same. It only takes a minute to add your name and every signature counts.

Women's Institute logo

Update on legal action for libraries

Library campaigning moved up a gear recently, with announcements about legal challenges coming in from a variety of locations throughout the country.

Brent : Campaigners in Brent received legal permission to have a judicial review in the High Court in just a couple of weeks’ time.  This, if the funding for the case is found by the campaigners, will be the first into court and will set the vital “precedent on library closures across the country.” The review will start on July 19th.

Isle of Wight : Campaigners on the Isle of Wight have been told they will receive funding to go to court and there apply for a judicial review. The case will be funded on grounds that cuts breach the “comprehensive and efficient” requirement of the 1964 Act and also that an equalities impact assessment was not done. Leigh Day solicitors say “We have advised our client that she has a good case and expect the Court to grant permission for a full judicial review.”

Somerset : A local library user  is taking legal action against Somerset County Council’s move to close 11 libraries in October, unless volunteers step forward to run them.

The above information was taken from the Public Libraries News site and further details of the campaigns can be found there.

Gloucestershire : Voices For The Library were pleased to hear yesterdays announcement that there will be a judicial high court review of cuts to Gloucestershire library services. The review was granted on all three of the grounds made by the claimant. Delighted Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries commented that “This scrutiny has never been allowed within GCC’s own procedures, where party politics has appeared to be prioritised before the needs and concerns of service users.”

(More details here)

Not only are these actions giving hope to the above campaigners, but also to campaigners throughout the country. The cases highlight the fact that in some cases there are enough grounds to question library closures and that local authorities should take note and consider their actions with them in mind. As Doncaster campaigners stated, in regard to cuts being proposed by their local council:  “At the very least, DMBC ought to put a halt to its plans to close libraries, make staff redundant and cut opening hours until a precedent has been set by these legal challenges.”

(More details here)

On Sunday “The Politics Show” (BBC1) will be discussing the implications of these legal actions for campaigners and local councils around the country.

Poems for Library Campaigners

VftL are pleased to have permission from Alan Gibbons and Chrissie Gittins to republish their ‘Poems for library campaigners’, published here with Alan’s introduction:

All over the country communities are holding Read ins this Saturday, February 5th as part of a Save Our Libraries Day to protest at local authorities’ withdrawal of funds from 450 libraries.
Campaign for the Book organizer Alan Gibbons said:
“I hope these poems from myself and Chrissie Gittins can be used to support the library protests. Libraries are at the heart of our communities. If we allow dogmatic cost-cutting policies to devastate the library network we will suffer through poor literacy levels and social dislocation. Already the UK has fallen from 7th to 25th in international reading rankings (PISA). South Korea, which stands top of the standings, is building 180 libraries. We are looking at the closure of 450. Reading is at the heart of social and academic success. We must not allow these disproportionate cuts to go unopposed.”

Poems for libraries
Two poems for library campaigners

I wonder, do we need
Another boarded-up building
In the High Street,
Another plywood or shuttered cataract
Bearing blind, sclerotic witness
To ignorance, wordlessness, decline?
I wonder, do we need
Another abandoned recess
For the tide of crisp packets and Styrofoam trays
To lap and rustle and slap
Against another closed door,
Another back turned
Against the tired, poor, excluded
Yearning to be free?
I wonder, do we need
More rows of empty bookshelves
To make way, one day
For the commodities to define you,
Tell you that if you fill your eyes with purchases
And stuff your ears with products
you can shut out your own humanity?
I wonder, can we still speak and sing,
I wonder, can we turn the page and bring
To all our new generations
A sense that to be human
Is to talk, debate and argue,
Discuss, discover and yearn?
So many questions-
But if they lock this door for good
Who will provide the answers?

By Alan Gibbons


‘Longing To be Heard’

A sound becomes a syllable,
A syllable becomes a word,
A word becomes a book
Longing to be heard.
A child speaks the word,
Mouthing every sound,
The child seeks the book,
Will the book be found?
Will the book be in the library?
Will a library be in the town?
Will a van deliver riches
The child cannot put down?
Or will the child be halted
On paths which are not there
Which would’ve given wealth,
In books they cannot share?

By Chrissie Gittins

Guest bloggers are not affiliated with VftL, and all views and opinions are their own.

Read-ins: what and why?

You may have heard the announcement that a day of protest Read-Ins is planned in libraries across the country in February. But what are Read-Ins, and why are they important?

What’s a Read-In?

Quite simply, Read-Ins are a way of demonstrating the need for public libraries and disagreement with local councils’ decisions. They’re family-friendly, peaceful and bring together people from all over the community who share the belief that public libraries are a vital public service. It really is up to you as to what will be happening at your Read-In. It could be exactly what it says on the tin – a large group of people descending upon the library to read quietly. Or, it could be a much more vibrant event. Save Doncaster Libraries have been holding Read-Ins since July. There have been authors, poets and musicians who’ve put on entertainment, not only to lift the spirits of people fighting library closures, but also to show what kind of things can take place in libraries that are of real value to communities, particularly young children and families. Members of the public have spoken publicly about what the library service means to them and how their lives will change for the worse without it. And of course, Read-Ins are the perfect place to get lots of people to sign petitions against cuts to libraries. Here are some photos from Doncaster events:

Warmsworth read-in group
Warmsworth read-in
Wheatley read-in

Why Are Read-Ins Important?

Campaign groups have been working around the country to advocate for libraries and argue that the public needs them. They have been trying to convince councils that cuts to library services are a false economy that will cost councils more money in the long-term even though libraries continue to be incredibly important (in fact, many argue that libraries are more important now than ever). Campaign groups, authors and the public have been holding protests and communicating with councils, but severe cuts are still being proposed. It’s important for people to engage with what’s going on around them and to show the council and the councillors they vote for that cuts to libraries are not acceptable. Read-Ins are an excellent (and fun!) way to do that.