If you saw our post on Monday, you'll know that yesterday the Speak Up For Libraries group lobbied parliament - both on keeping libraries open, and ensuring they grow with their communities. Such support is certainly needed, especially as some 549 libraries have closed across Britain since David Cameron became Prime Minister.
That number is shocking and deserves a response. It also deserves strong library support, and a clear conversation on what can (and needs) to be done. Yesterday one side of that conversation was delivered with enthusiasm, strength and a strong collective voice at #SUFLlobby16.
According to a report on the day by the The Bookseller, campaigners, authors, and a cross-country-travelling schoolboy were among those arriving at Westminster to deliver the group's pledge. A pledge shared on Twitter by author Philip Ardagh (below):
Authors showed strong support throughout, exemplified by Cathy Cassidy who spoke powerfully about how "Councils have a duty to offer a comprehensive and efficient service", This is a key theme in the conversation about library support. While libraries should be growing and adapting, Cassidy pointed out, they are instead our being "bled dry". Cassidy pulled no punches in her speech, calling the situation a "national disgrace", before adding the below - all of which is praiseworthy:
Some amazing libraries are really pushing boundaries but we need change and support at government level. We have a government and councils that are launching expensive schemes to get children reading whilst simultaneously closing their very best access to free books. It makes no sense at all
Libraries build communities, weave those communities together and help people climb the ladder towards their own potential, one book at a time. It is beyond shameful that Britain can even think of closing libraries, slamming the door on culture and opportunity for young and old alike.
She's clearly right. The case was made at the rally that other countries are investing in their libraries, and yet it's not only public libraries which need support. Speaking about libraries in schools, primary school boy(!) and primary chief librarian, George Hamilton, spoke marvellously:
I agree with our government that all children aged eight and above should own a library card, but what is the point when all over the UK, since David Cameron came into power over 400 libraries have shut and there are more proposed cuts to come?
It may not be widely known - and this is one thing which should be spread far and wide - but there is a legal requirement for local authorities to offer a "comprehensive and library service". There is no such requirement in schools, but as George Hamilton pondered:
...think of those children who don’t have school or public libraries, where will the[y] access knowledge, where will the[y] access a world...of brilliant children’s literature? What the government is going is wrong and we need to stand up for what is right."
Perfectly put. And the point is, yes, we the public can be the difference. Our Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, may be 'crazy' in his sidestepping of conversation, but we can still speak with our own MPs on the issue. And we should.
It was undoubtedly, then, a day of high emotion, energy and drive. And, in summing up the mood, we may look to Dawn Finch, President of The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Ms Finch offered that campaigners should, "tell them [MPs] and show them just how much librarians and libraries offer to their communities". Urging us all to , "Get this pushed further", Finch made her view clear. "This is not just about us… this is not just about buildings or books or jobs, this is about the future of our society."
That, frankly, is the best final sentiment for ending on. It's not the final word on libraries though. That is very much down to the British public.
Find out more about Speak Up For Libraries, here.