Save The Library; Save The Librarian!
All over the country, libraries are being closed down because of local government cutbacks; cutbacks forced on them by national government slashing their budgets. Often, libraries are the first to go. They are seen as an easy target, all-too-often it is claimed they are rarely used, or as was said in my local area, are ‘white middle-class privileges’, or worst of all, libraries are held up as an either/or choice – either you have youth services or libraries, old people’s centres or libraries, community centres or libraries. All of these were lies in my area; it is a poor borough, a multi-ethnic community and the libraries were not only already the community centres, they were the only place the poorer (who also tended because of racism/disablism to be the non-white and non-able-bodied members of the community) could get internet access for job searches, community information and for the children, the only place they could do their homework.
Did you know children are now expected to do their homework on a computer and to use the internet to research? It’s true. Getting rid of libraries penalises the disadvantaged almost from the day they are born. Given 23% of the country do not have internet access and the levels of poverty and homelessness are rising, this is just going to get worse.
According to Public Library News, 397 libraries (309 buildings and 88 mobiles) are currently under threat of closure, have already been closed or have left council control since 1st April 2011, out of a total of approximately 4,612 in the United Kingdom. CILIP, the professional body for librarians predict there are a total of 600 libraries under threat. My own local library is now run by a not-for-profit company by volunteers and, it was promised, one qualified librarian. In our community, it was that or lose the library altogether.
Local areas, such as Brent, Surrey, and Doncaster, have already or are being forced to take legal action to protect the provision of library services; this action being led by myriad campaigners from all walks of life (not a viable option for my local library). On Speak Up For Libraries Day on Tuesday 13th March 2012, a rally and lobby of parliament is happening (please go if you are able; sadly I am not), and I want to give my voice to exactly why I love libraries and librarians, and why I don’t just believe, I KNOW that libraries are not a luxury but a necessity. I believe access to libraries is a fundamental human right. Here’s why:
- Librarians will help you discover information and expand your knowledge, in the secure understanding that all that knowledge has been thoroughly checked and is fact rather than speculation or biased conjecture; or if it speculative or prejudiced, it is clear that it is.
- Librarians can recommend fiction and advise on fictional books you would enjoy; expanding your literary understanding and life experiences.
- The access to information, entertainment and community is free and available to all.
- Librarians provide support, and help you develop and reach your full potential.
- Information isn’t restricted according to whichever societal privilege you don’t have access to.
- Libraries are community centres/book lending depositaries/free internet access sites/meeting places for like-minded people.
- Libraries are the frontline in purveying up-to-date knowledge and imagination, and librarians are the trained individuals adept at ensuring that you have that access.
- Libraries stay modern; new developments in technology such as the advent of the internet, the loaning of videos, DVDs, cassette tapes, CDs, Blu-Rays (and who knows what the future will hold) become freely accessible and very often tutorials in the use of new technology are available from the library. If not, then the library will certainly have the information as to where tutorials can be accessed.
- Libraries are networked; in local areas if you can’t find what you need in your local library, the librarian will be able to order it from another local library.
Many boroughs are stating they will keep libraries open if they are staffed by volunteers. Not only is this taking away paid employment from a highly trained professional, this is a disservice to the local community. Librarians don’t merely check books in and out, as the examples I give above explain. They maintain and update libraries constantly and are a lifeline in a local community. Relying on volunteers is putting too heavy a responsibility on a community, and is making untrained, ill-equipped people do the work that requires highly-trained and knowledgeable personnel to effectively undertake. It is a disservice to libraries, librarians and the local communities they serve.
If you want to know more, check out Voices for the Library or go to your local library and find out what they are doing and how you can help save this vital lifeline to your community. You may not use the library, but your community does, and you never know when you might need it. If you don’t try to save it, one day it won’t be there and then it will be too late.
If we don’t fight for libraries and librarians, if we don’t stand up for this source of independent information, knowledge, creativity and imagination, then we will stagnate as a society and will cease to be able to develop truly independent opinions. We will really become the sheep, incapable of independent thought, incapable of an independent opinion and unable to make a truly informed choice about anything in our lives. That’s not what I want. I hope it isn’t what you want either.
Save the Library. Save the Librarian. Please act now. Thank you.