Local elections – Speak Up For Libraries!


The Speak Up for Libraries alliance is urging people everywhere to make public libraries a central issue in local elections.

This is a once-in-four-years chance to make sure local councils understand that libraries are a low-cost, essential resource for their work – and deeply valued by local residents.

Already, many library services are threatened by deep cuts, widespread closures of vital local branches – or the damaging policy of turning branches over to be run by volunteers.

Yet the unprecedented cuts to government grant that local authorities are facing mean that libraries, despite being a statutory service that councils must provide, are once more in danger of being seen as soft targets for savings. Such cuts often save little but do great damage.

If people wait another four years, their own library could go. Nationally a postcode lottery will become a reality with only some communities benefiting from the presence of a professionally run library.

Libraries remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, information and enjoyment.

Libraries are a trusted public space, a place for everyone.

They play a crucial role in improving literacy standards and in combating the digital divide.

Speak up for Libraries believes that libraries, far from being obsolete, are more important than ever. That is why we are asking local politicians, and the government, to make a public commitment to their survival and development.

Speak up for Libraries is asking local councillors to sign up to the following manifesto when standing for election;

  • Acknowledge that libraries are important to people – especially when times are hard for individuals and communities.
  • Give a commitment to engage with communities to design services that meet their needs and aspirations.
  • Ensure library services are properly resourced and staffed.
  • A commitment to a service that is publicly funded, managed and run by paid professional staff.
  • Recognise that properly funded library services contribute to the health and well-being of communities and so complement the work of other public services

And lobby the Government to:

  • Give libraries a long-term future, with a vision for their future development and clear standards of service
  • Enforce the commitment in law to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service. This commitment should also include digital, ICT and e-book services



  • Speak Up For Libraries is an alliance of individual campaigners and national organisations: Elizabeth Ash, Campaign for the Book, CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals), The Library Campaign, Unison, Voices for the Library.
  • Local Elections – This year there will be Council elections on 22 May for the London Boroughs (32), all Metropolitan Boroughs (36) and a number of unitary authorities (20). There are no local elections in Scotland or Wales or for County Councils in England. The local elections in District Councils are not relevant as they are not responsible for public library services
  • Library closures:

– Public Library Statistics produced by CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) show that there was a net loss of 212 libraries or mobile libraries in the UK in 2011/12 and 71 libraries (including mobile libraries) in 2012/13.

– Public Library News estimate that in 2013/14 493 libraries (including mobile libraries) in the UK were closed, or planned to be closed, or became community managed libraries managed by volunteers.

– Since April 2014, Public Library News report that 78 libraries (including mobile libraries) are threatened with closure and 5 libraries to become community managed libraries run by volunteers


  • Local government funding and expenditure:

– There was a 33% real term cut to government funding of local government in England between 2011-2015 (Comprehensive Spending Review 20112-2015)

– A further 10% cut to Government’s Core Funding of local government in England planned in 2015/2016 (Spending Review 2016-2016)

– Additional funding cuts are widely expected in 2016-2018

In a press release issued by the Local Government Association on announcement of the 2015/2016 Spending review, Sir Merrick Cockell, Local Government Association Chairman is quoted as saying:

“,,,the fact remains that some councils will simply not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities. Services such as culture and leisure facilities, school support, road maintenance and growth-related programmes will bear the brunt of these cuts”


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2013 SUFL Conference Outcomes

The 2013 Speak Up For Libraries conference was a very positive and productive day. A number of workshops were held to get a sense of what library supporters need to help protect the public library service.

The workshops also served the purpose of helping to direct the future work of the Speak Up For Libraries coalition.

Download the workshop feedback

What help do library campaigners need

  • A central (online?) information point where campaigners et al can go to for data, legislation, reports, good practice etc is needed. Needs to be kept up to date.
  • A centralised list of groups and campaigns involved in protecting the public library. More networking between groups and sharing of experiences, advice, strategies etc.
  • We need a full time person to co-ordinate resources and a national campaign.
  • There is an urgent need to make Councillors, Senior Officers and politicians more aware of what libraries do and what they can achieve. There is a need for more joined up thinking in local and central government, linking libraries in with other strategies.
  • There is an urgent need for a clearer leadership structure within the public library sector and a desperate need for enforceable standards.
  • More emphasis on positive stories and more evidence about the socio-economic impact of libraries is needed.
  • Targeted promotion of library services locally and nationally especially to non-users. Prioritise outreach. Use social media more to reach targeted audiences.

the panel 2013

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High profile speakers complete Speak Up For Libraries conference line-up

High profile speakers complete Speak Up For Libraries conference line-up

A range of influential figures from the most important organisations in public library services have confirmed as speakers at the Speak Up For Libraries conference, which takes place on 23 November in London.

The speakers are:

  • Yinnon Ezra, Advisor for Libraries at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
  • Brian Ashley, Director, Libraries at Arts Council England (ACE)
  • Janene Cox, President, The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL)
  • Alan Gibbons, author and founder of Campaign for the Book
  • Phil Bradley, President, the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals (CILIP)
  • Heather Wakefield, Head of Local Government, UNISON
  • Steve Davies, Lecturer in Social Sciences, University of Cardiff

The conference aims to support those that care about their libraries – including library users, campaigners and staff – to understand more about the challenges facing libraries, what can be done and to set a national agenda.

Delegates will have the chance to hear what experts think the future of public libraries looks like, to discuss what local campaigns need and ask speakers their questions.

The Speak Up For Libraries conference takes place on Saturday 23 November in central London. Event details and booking: https://speakupforlibraries.eventbrite.co.uk/

Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff, now and in the future. Speak Up For Libraries partners include The Campaign for the Book, CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals, The Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.

NB – If you want to pass on information to those not online, you can find our booking form on the resources page

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