Supporting my local library


I was at my local library in Walton, Liverpool today with other campaigners to keep the public informed about what was happening. This year eleven libraries were at risk of closure. Mayor Anderson rejected our campaign to keep the libraries in council control. Walton is currently closed, being refurbished. The future is uncertain. The building has been taken over by Mersey Care NHS Trust as a Mental Health hub. It looks highly unlikely that this facility will survive as a real library.

It is National Libraries Day

I proposed National Libraries Day in 2011. It has been running for several years. This is one of my poems about the value of libraries:

When you open a book
You open a mind.
If there are many open books
Then minds open
Like flowers,
Tremulous, contrary,
Rebellious, enquiring,
Reckless, wise.

If there are many open books
People kick at doors
That are closed,
They tug at cases that are shut,
Ask questions about laws
That are unquestionable.

For that reason some people
Would rather a book
Stays closed
Like a door.

In Brent they came
With boards
To turn a door
Into a wall,
A wall
Into a final chapter

But people
Arrived with open minds
Instead of hammers and nails,
With angler’s chairs
Instead of hammers and crowbars,
With questions
Like flowers,
Tremulous, contrary,
Rebellious, enquiring,
Reckless, wise.

While the libraries stay open,
The books stay open,
The minds stay open,
The final chapter
Is still to be written
And the first chapter
Is still to be thought.

Alan Gibbons
October 19, 2011.

Happy Clappy Eddie Vaizey

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has obviously been told by Lynton Crosby to go on the attack over his woeful record on libraries. This article in Conservative Home, land of the living froth, is staggering in its misleading silliness. My reply, posted on the site, is below.

The article is here:


This is typical of Mr Vaizey and his colleagues, choosing to make party political points in traditional Punch and Judy fashion rather than engaging in the genuine debate about the future of the public library service. What is the reality? 440 libraries have closed on Mr Vaizey’s watch. You can verify this by examining the independently audited CIPFA figures. 32% of library staff have gone. Volunteers have replaced paid librarians. This is not an attack on volunteers, but on the lack of strategic governance of the sector by the DCMS to ensure a professional service. Book stocks have been slashed. This has happened in councils of all political stripes, not just Labour. Most importantly, who holds the purse strings? That would be Mr Vaizey. Who has a responsibility to superintend the service? That would be Mr Vaizey. With whom does ‘the buck stop.’ Mr Vaizey again. I and other library campaigners have been making these points for years and yes, we have lobbied, debated and petitioned both Labour and Tory councils. We have had no friends in either party when trying to protect a valuable public service that is used disproportionately by the elderly, the young and the poor. I have met Mr Vaizey several times. He boasts that the service gets two hundred million visits. Very recently it was three hundred million. Much of that decline has been during his term of office. I challenged Mr Vaizey to a debate. We seemed to have an agreement, but Ed would only offer a debate on a weekday when library campaigners who are working or live outside London can’t attend. Come on, Ed, let’s have a public debate on a Saturday anywhere in the country, making the event accessible to those who matter, the library users. You wouldn’t want to be evasive, would you?



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.’

• 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.
Eve Ainsworth

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.
Philip Ardagh

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.
Jake Arnott

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.
Cathy Cassidy

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.
John Dougherty

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.
Dawn Finch

The public library service is being hollowed out. This is its worst crisis. Action is urgently needed to secure its future.
Alan Gibbons