Best-seller Jake Arnott is the latest writer to sign up for the Speak Up For Libraries (SUFL) lobby of Parliament on 9 February.
‘Throughout our history,’ he says, ‘the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation.
‘The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.’
The day begins with a public rally at Central Hall, Westminster (10am-1pm), with a line-up of speakers chaired by campaigning author Alan Gibbons. All welcome, whether joining a lobby or not.
Alan’s Campaign for the Book is part of the SUFL alliance, alongside librarians’ professional association CILIP, campaigners’ charity The Library Campaign, UNISON and Voices for the Library.
Supporters from as far away as Gateshead, Shropshire, Lancashire and Lincolnshire will then descend on the Commons to lobby MPs to focus on the root cause of libraries’ grim situation – apathy and ignorance in local and central government.
‘These people are fighting hard locally to keep libraries alive. They are desperate to show this is a major issue for the whole nation,’ says Laura Swaffield of The Library Campaign.
‘And it’s not too late for others to join us.’
THE FULL LINE-UP OF SPEAKERS:
- Eve Ainsworth (Seven Days, The Blog of Maisy Malone) – just launching her latest novel Crush with Scholastic (‘Love hurts… but should it hurt this much?’).
- Philip Ardagh, multiple award-winning comic writer and dramatist (the Grubtown Tales, Eddie Dickens & The Grunts series) – Guardian book reviewer and the loudest beard in literature.
- Jake Arnott (The Long Firm, He Kills Coppers, truecrime, Johnny Come Home, The Devil’s Paintbrush, The House of Rumour) – the first two made into successful TV serials.
- Cathy Cassidy, million selling Queen of Teen award winner (the Chocolate Box Girls series, Looking-Glass Girl) – breaking off from a schools and libraries tour to promote her new paperbacks (Penguin Random House).
- John Dougherty, irrepressible children’s writer (the Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series) – singing by special request his classic lament ‘What’s Wrong with [libraries minister] Ed Vaizey?’
- Dawn Finch, librarian, literacy consultant and best-selling author (Skara Brae, Brotherhood of Shades, The Book of Worth) – speaking here as President of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library & Information Professionals)
- Alan Gibbons, million-selling, multiple award-winning children’s writer (Shadow of the Minotaur, End Game, Hate) – tireless campaigner and international speaker.
- Laura Swaffield & Elizabeth Ash, The Library Campaign.
- Heather Wakefield, head of local government, UNISON.
- Alan Wylie, Voices for the Library.
Libraries matter. They matter to all communities, but especially to those in the most deprived areas. And they matter to the little girl inside this author who discovered adventures and magic within a wonderful, and often under appreciated, haven.
The local library is a port of call for: books, local information, human contact, internet access, newspapers and magazines, a safe environment, a quiet environment, help with form-filling, advice, and the countless other little things that all add up to bigger things. Speak up for libraries before there’s nothing left to shout about.
Throughout our history the library has proved to be the most effective and resilient memory system for our culture and civilisation. The public library creates a collective consciousness. Any attack on it simply adds to a social dementia.
Without libraries, I would never have had access to books as a child, would never had stood a chance of following my dreams. Now our public libraries are being closed all around us; it’s a national scandal, and we must stand together against these closures, for the sake of our children and the future of our country.
If we want a society that is literate, cultured, educated and compassionate, then a well-funded, professionally-staffed public library service is not a luxury. It is a necessity. And the destruction of service that our government is allowing is quite simply immoral.
Libraries are the cornerstone of a well-informed society. I strongly believe that there is not a single person working at high level in their field who has not at some point turned to a library for help. It’s not rocket science, but without libraries there will be no rocket science.
The public library service is being hollowed out. This is its worst crisis. Action is urgently needed to secure its future.
- Libraries have borne the brunt of public spending cuts in Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales):
(i) Over 100 were lost last year; at least 441 have closed in the past five years; 149 are currently under threat, with new threats announced almost daily.
(ii) Most surviving libraries are suffering severe cuts to staff, book funds and opening hours. Since 2010 there has been a 22% drop in staff (full time equivalents), including a 32% drop in professional staff and a 93% rise in volunteers (though on average each works just 38 hours per year).The skills, knowledge base and quality of service available to library users is being seriously eroded.
(iii) The future looks as bad – or worse. After last year’s Spending Review, the Local Government Association commented: ‘Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres and turned off every street light, they will not have saved enough money to plug the financial black hole they face by2020.’
- MPs will be lobbied to:
- sign the Early Day Motion supporting libraries and the lobby
- acknowledge the importance of public libraries
- call on government to do its job by producing statutory guidance on standards, and a development programme
- call on local authorities to ensure adequate funding.
- The Early Day Motion:
That this house recognises that public libraries are hugely important to our communities; acknowledges that many have already closed and many more are under threat; welcomes the Speak Up For Libraries lobby of Parliament in support of the UK’s public library service on 9 February 2016; and therefore calls on the Government to ensure that councils have enough money to provide well staffed quality library services; to enforce the law that says local authorities must provide a comprehensive and efficient library service; to implement policy which secures people’s statutory rights to a quality library service and gives libraries a long-term future by including a programme of library development and modernisation in the 2016-2020 DCMS Business Plan.
- Campaign for the Book: Alan Gibbons 07889 981739 ; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Author interviews + The Library Campaign: Laura Swaffield, 07914 491145; email@example.com
- CILIP: Cat Cooper, 020 7255 0653 (mobile 07867 455070); firstname.lastname@example.org
- UNISON: Fatima Ayad, 020 7121 5255; email@example.com
- Voices for the Library: Lauren Smith, 07503 173894; firstname.lastname@example.org
The Library Campaign will consider giving lobbyists financial support for travel costs if they are otherwise unable to attend the lobby. Contact: email@example.com or 020 8651 9552 / 07968 491355.
Speak Up For Libraries is a coalition of organisations and campaigners working to protect libraries and library staff, now and in the future.
Twitter: @SpeakUp4Libs using lobby hashtag #SUFLlobby16