Sunday, 4 July 2010

Libraries gave us power

Children's writer Alan Gibbons has just published his latest newsletter for the Campaign for the Book, which aims to defend public and school libraries:

'So now we know. Government departments are told to prepare plans for cuts of ‘up to’ 40%, while there is a nod and a wink that most should get away with a trifling 25%. This is accompanied by two connected mantras. One is that ‘we are all in it together.’ The other is that ‘there is no alternative.’

Neither is true. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has provided evidence that the burden of the crisis will weigh more heavily on the poor than the wealthy. The cuts are also £40billion larger than ‘the markets’ expected. The markets are of course, a relatively small social group with an interest in pressing certain economic strategies, not an elemental force of nature.

Interestingly some items of Government expenditure such as Trident are not on the table. Surely ‘big ticket’ expenditures like this should be subjected to scrutiny.

But we are where we are and this is the context in which we try to defend libraries and the culture of books, book ownership and borrowing and the entire culture of reading for pleasure, information, engagement and inspiration.

The cuts are already biting deep. A school librarian surveyed one small corner of South East Wales. Six libraries and their librarians have gone. One only operates two days a week.

Another school library has gone in Willenhall, West Midlands. I even met a North Yorkshire librarian this week who gets three days a year for her duties. This is not a belated April Fool joke. This picture is likely to be repeated elsewhere.

School Library Services also continue to close. I am told Kent is the latest to go. Finally public library services are under threat in Doncaster. Hampshire and Southampton are being severely squeezed. This is a sign of things to come and there has to be a response.'

Click the link to the newsletter (above) to read the very welcome Charter for Libraries, launched by the Campaign for the Book together with other groups.

Picture: a public library in Kansas, USA


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