Thursday, 20 January 2011

UK public library closure news

There's a lot of information online and offline about public library closures at the moment. Some of it has been around for a while; this is - sadly - not a new phenomena, and the current storm of closure threats started last year.

Where to go to for news; the best place to start is probably Public Libraries News:

http://publiclibrariesnews.com/

... which has a frequently updated (linked) list of places with libraries under threat.

For campaigning, try Voices for the Library:

http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/ - who are also on Twitter and Facebook.

People from the Voices for the Library campaign have also been very heavily involved with the media over the last few months, doing numerous local and national TV and radio interviews. As have others such as the incredibly determined Jo Bo Anderson, seen below handing in a massive petition to Gloucestershire Council while dealing with local councillors of varying degrees of (un)pleasantness.

Save Our Libraries

And like the aforementioned Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries there are many local library campaigns springing up on websites, or on Facebook or other social media, such as the Keep Lochwinnoch Library in the Library campaign.

The BBC website also has various news, in various formats, about library closures, albeit of varying quality. Many of the national newspapers do as well, again of varying quality. The Guardian, which probably focuses on public libraries more than the others, stuffs most of its library articles under books in culture. The Independent has also, very recently, focused on this issue [1] [2] [3] [4].

In it for the long haul...

A very important thing to note. This will not be a quick campaign, or something that will fade away over the next few weeks, or even months. Councils are in the process of setting their budgets for the next year but, if anything, the budgets that will be set in 2012 and 2013 are currently looking even more ominous. This battle over the future of libraries, library branches, and public access to information, knowledge and a wide range of services is going to be a long-term effort.

Protest Sign About Closure of City Library

If you are concerned about your local library service, then consider getting involved in whatever way you feel comfortable. For example:
  • Join your local campaign, if there is one. A hunt around online (Google, Facebook, Flickr) or in your local newspaper should quickly reveal if there is one.
  • If there isn't, then find like-minded people and start one; see what other campaigns have done (online and offline) and you'll see that time, not money, is required for a high profile effective campaign (platforms such as Facebook are free).
  • Even if your local library is not under threat, it may be at some point. If you are - luckily - in this position, consider starting a 'friends' of your local library group, and help to promote it. Increasing the usage of your local library will provide some useful statistical ammunition if it is threatened in the future.
  • Don't want to leave the house; fine - do things online. Many newspapers have forums, and allow comments after news articles. See such an article about your library, or libraries at a national level? Then comment (you have as much right to as the next person), but with dignity and professionalism. The anti-library people (and, as you can see from the comments left on articles, there are plenty of these) have no hesitation on banging, often angrily, on a keyboard. Be the voice of reason.

And the most fundamental way you can help, while also helping yourself (win-win):

Go to your local library. Use the services. Borrow books. Look, you're paying for it anyway through a (very tiny) part of your taxes, so why not?

Use them or lose them. Never has that saying been so - literally - true.

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