The cutters will not give up so we wonâ€™t either.
Fight for libraries.
Make the first week in February National Libraries Day.
The campaign to save our libraries is going to be a long one. As I write 522 libraries face the withdrawal of funding or closure. That is 461 buildings and 61 mobiles (Public Libraries News). Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed this week that no area of public service is free from the threat of privatisation. He said he would: â€˜end the stateâ€™s monopoly over public servicesâ€™. In another sign that there is little understanding of public libraries London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in his Daily Telegraph article that public libraries are not a statutory service. Cilipâ€™s Annie Mauger put him right in an Open Letter the next day.
In a number of areas councils are pushing ahead with their plans to withdraw funding immediately. Others have deferred their decisions. Any breathing space is to be welcomed, but there should be no premature celebrations because the fall of the axe is in some cases not immediate. The withdrawal of funding is still on the table in almost every case. It appears that there are two major reasons why councils are prepared to set back their final decisions:
*to carry out the necessary consultations (usually with foregone conclusions) to avoid any possible legal challenge
*to give time for volunteer or community groups to take over libraries
Whether councils are withdrawing funds now or in a few months time, communities, library users and staff will have to continue to protest, march, lobby and consider legal challenges. Several avenues are being pursued.
Sheffield reads, the Manics preach and a thirteen-year-old-boy and a nine-year-old girl protest
The magnificent February 5th Save Our Libraries Day with its 110 Read-ins wasnâ€™t the end of our campaign, but the beginning. Already more eye-catching events are being organized:
*There is a citywide Sheffield Read-in on March 5th.
*Thirteen-year-old Joe Miller lobbied the Prime Minister over the future of Kingâ€™s Heath library in Birmingham and made it into the cityâ€™s local newspaper.
*Nine-year-old Jessica Trueman has written to PM David Cameron and Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt. She has also had an epistolary debate with Museums, Libraries and Archives Council Chief Executive Roy Clare. Undaunted, Jessica has now declared her readiness to hold a Sleep-in at her local library, Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire.
*There is a Facebook campaign to turn the Manic Street Preachersâ€™ classic Design for Life into a number one. The first line is: â€˜Libraries gave us power.â€™
(Details of all three are on www.alangibbons.net)
The Campaign for the Book will support these and any other initiatives to increase public support for libraries and reading.
Reading for Pleasure conference
The February 11th Reading for Pleasure conference was a great success. Massively oversubscribed, it was attended by teachers, school librarians and other education and library professionals. Michael Rosen, Bernard Ashley and Malorie Blackman were their usual inspirational selves and there was an excellent contribution by Deborah Bullivant on a brilliant reading initiative in Rotherham called Inspire Rotherham.
To give a flavour of the speeches here are a few excerpts from Bernard:
â€œEmpathy is an important human attribute. Understanding something of the lives of others is significant in learning and in growth- in education as a human being- and books open up these possibilities.
â€œBut for how much longer will this go on? Any gardener could tell David Cameron that only the most prudent of cuts promote growth- and he needs to be told that this goes not only for economic growth but also for the growth of the mind, of understanding and of empathy. The death of a library is a knife in the body of a civilized society.â€
And again: â€œItâ€™s really down to the school itself- to have a Reading for Pleasure Policy embedded at its core- a child-friendly policy that allows time for reading free choice books and magazines, in a hallowed period that isnâ€™t eaten into with admin, or with the teacher doing something else up the front. Everyone reads.â€
Everyone in the room understood that this meant a reading curriculum and a good school library with a respected school librarian. Discussions will be underway with the conference sponsors the NUT about building on this excellent start.
And finallyâ€¦the proposal to make the first day in February National Libraries Day.
In the aftermath of Save Our Libraries Day many of you wrote to me suggesting that we try to make the first day in February National Libraries Day, a chance to celebrate our libraries every year.
I think this is an excellent idea. I want to win the backing of professional bodies, trade unions, authors, celebrities, reading organizations and websites, literary societies, readersâ€™ and campaign groups.
If you support the idea, post a comment on this blog.