Coordinated protest to save our libraries

This is the eye-catching banner at one of the UK Uncut protests against tax avoidance on December 18th. It is gratifying to see such links being made. This week one of the Doncaster Save Our Libraries campaigners wrote to me, suggesting that we hold protests at some of the 350 plus libraries being threatened with closure.
With councils due to finalise their spending decisions in February, I think this is an idea that deserves serious attention. So forgive me for interrupting your seasonal break, but I need to know if people think this is practical and desirable. Yes, the holiday will give us very little time to organise. If we are serious about doing our utmost to save the public library service however, I feel we have to move on this.
This is what I am proposing:
*Library campaigners hold Read-ins at selected libraries around the country on Saturday, February 5th, say at noon, focusing on branches facing closure in key areas such as Doncaster, Leeds, Lewisham, Brent, Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, etc.
*The Read-In would begin with speeches by readers, authors, trade unionists, librarians, councilors committed to libraries, etc and continue with protestors going into their libraries and taking turns to read excerpts from their favourite books.
*The Campaign for the Book is an umbrella body and respects the autonomy of local campaigns. The exact nature of each protest would be up to each area.
*We would try to attract the maximum media publicity in the build up to council meetings and the Conservative Local Government conference in Warwickshire on Friday, February 11th.
*The atmosphere should be celebratory, pointing to the positive impact libraries have in communities, raising literacy, giving access to ICT and information, providing meeting places and local events. We want to demonstrate what libraries are and argue what they could be with a proper strategy for their development.
If this is to happen, we need to move quickly.
I would need to know which areas want to hold protests so that I could assemble a list to send to the media. I would also need two or three contact email addresses for each local campaign.
Please get in touch with me on:

Alan Gibbons
Campaign for the Book

My public library made me smile

16 thoughts on “Coordinated protest to save our libraries

  1. I love this idea. There are so many isolated library campaigns out there who are trying to fight cuts in their local area. It would be a great way to show the strength of feeling that people have around the country in a co-ordinated event.

    Gary Green (Voices For The Library campaign)

  2. thank you for all your brilliant campaigning alan
    my thought on this is that maybe the ‘read-in’ shouldn’t be in libraries but in townhalls, shopping centres, train stations… where people who don’t go to libraries often can be reminded about how important they are.
    thanks again, ds

  3. The Read-In would begin with speeches by readers, authors, trade unionists, librarians, councillors…

    Great idea except keep it light and fun by restricting speakers to 3 minutes each*. You don’t want it turning into a borefest by well-meaning but sometimes self-absorbed speakers.
    Let libraries keep people smiling, not yawning.
    (*Limited exemptions for people reading excerpts, of course.)

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  6. “The Read-In would begin with speeches by readers, authors, trade unionists, librarians, councillors…”

    Although it reduces the potential number of able speakers, I would personally try to avoid asking trade unionists. There will be plenty of Tory voters who oppose library cuts too, and you risk scaring them off. Same goes for councillors probably. There’s nothing scarier for a council or government than seeing their own supporters out in the streets protesting.

  7. The Read-In is a brilliant idea, and I hope you don’t mind if we aim to join in. Using libraries is the way to keep them, and its also the way to give our children the skills and knowledge they need. I am presenting the suggestion to our parish meeting on January 18th!

    Save South Petherton Library (Somerset)

  8. Paull,
    We welcome everybody into this carnival of resistance to closures. Good luck with your event.

  9. Bristol City Council says there will be no library closures but they have not set their final budget.

    I plan to walk from one library to another handing out Bristol & District Alliance leaflets and publicising the Read-in on Saturday 5 Febraury.
    Friends of Stony Stratford Library (FOSSL) emptied their shelves in an attempt protest!

  10. Alan,
    Like the idea of a sit in and read. Will be carrying out same on Feb 5th at Huthwaite Library through our local Huthwaite Community Action Group. We are not shutting-yet but are reducing the hours to 8 hours per week which we think is the beginning of a closure. The Carnegie Library will be 100 years open in 2012 .What a waste of a fantastic building and contact point for everyone in the village. Sorry Councillor Cutts you have got this wrong especially when the Chief Exec of Notts County Council is on £215,000 per year + pension payments from our Council Tax . This reduction of hours is wrong

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  13. 300 people took part in the protest this morning against the proposed closure of Lyme Regis library in West Dorset. Local authors Catherine and Laurence Anholt, Graham Oakley, Rikey Austin and Gillian Cross took part. Photos at or go to Events gallery on the above weibsite.
    Lyme Regis is one of 20 libraries out of 34 slated for closure by Dorset County Council.

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