I am sure many of your readers must be aware by now of Somerset County Council’s proposals announced just before Christmas to implement a 25% budget cut to the Library service resulting in funding being withdrawn for 20 libraries, 4 mobile libraries, reduced opening hours and significant reductions in management, support and professional staffing costs.
Voices for The Library (http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/) is a website that has been developed by a range of professional public library staff and this website helps to explain very clearly what the issues are. Their stated aim is to promote the need for and value of trained librarians within a free and open-to-all UK public library service.
There are currently 4,500 public libraries across the UK and it is estimated that over 1,000 of these will be closed within the next 12 months. However, some authorities are managing to avoid closures (Devon, Poole, Bristol for example).
The challenge we all face is, understanding the range of issues involved, whilst balancing political and financial priorities. These include the concept of a professionally delivered library service, the use of volunteers and ensuring equal and fair access to a library.
Whatever the outcome, we would just like to record our gratitude and appreciation to all those people voicing their concerns about the changes and proposed ‘new look’ service. Public Libraries have always been there and we often take them for granted assuming they always will be. If we really do value their contribution to our local communities, now is the time to make sure we make the right choices for the future.
As Melvyn Bragg once said – ‘who today would be brave enough to invent a public library?’
Concerned Libraries staff.