I have written in previous blogs and articles:
about the importance of the public libraries in our society and the dire financial straits they find themselves in.
Since returning from a winter break, I have been checking out some recent newspaper articles, and I find the situation has hardly improved. In fact, if it wasn’t for the incredible efforts of the dedicated volunteers to keep the libraries open the situation would be much worse.
Just consider some of the following points that were made in the articles:
Figures recently released indicate that 1,500 librarians have lost their jobs over the past two years.
£300 million has been wiped from library budgets since 2010.
An annual survey of libraries states that 50,000 volunteers put in 1.8 million hours to sustain the service!
Over 8 million Britons are active borrowers from the remaining 3,600 libraries.
(Thanks to journalists Mark Reynolds and Andrew Ellson for this info.)
There have been protests and petitions addressed to the government to save the libraries. But apparently the government blames the councils for the closures, who point out, quite correctly, of course, that they have to fund other public services.
So, what can be done about it? Well, there is hope. Ian Anstice, a librarian and campaigner who was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s honours list said: ‘A public consultation should be just that. That way, the council can genuinely learn what people want and change accordingly.’
Also, the Daily Express Crusade ‘Save Our Libraries’ is campaigning to turn the tide to try and make officialdom realise that the local library is not a luxury for a privileged few, but a vital ongoing resource for all of us.
Hopefully, along with continuing endeavours by the public, they will succeed.
N.B., I don’t yet have any figures for the Irish libraries, north and south, but will look into it in a future article.