Emma Robinson reports on how many libraries around the UK are under threat as local councils fight for funding. In 2019 the Guardian found Britain had been forced to close ‘almost 800 libraries since 2010’. Library visits have plummeted since ‘the number of branches and paid staff have declined’.
Under the 1964 Public Libraries Act, one of the roles of the central governmental is to ‘superintend, and promote the improvement of the public library service‘. However, the government is clearly not providing enough money as local councils are on tight budgets and have ‘been forced to redirect funding to priority services such as social care‘.
Libraries are very important and can hold significant meaning to people. I associate them with the feeling of nostalgia. This is because in my local town in Yorkshire there used to be a library where people would donate used children’s books so other families and children (such as myself) could enjoy them. I then remember many years later walking past the library building and noticing that it was unoccupied and closed. I was unaware when this happened, or why (although I am assuming budget cuts) – it only made me feel guilty for not taking advantage of it even after my childhood.
Libraries are important because they offer support for the working class and elderly
There are things we can do to support our local libraries to try and prevent these closures. Penguin Books highlight examples on their website. We can become members, borrow books (this can even be online), donate, write to our local MP and use the space provided for work or reading.
Another way in which people have taken more radical action is by protesting. In Nottingham, the campaign group Fight Rascism! Fight Imperialism! protested the proposed closure of some local libraries. In a statement they said ‘Radford, Lenton and Basford libraries are only open 4 days a week and even then, on most days, they’re closed by 1 o’clock’. Protesters claimed that these libraries are ‘underfunded and understaffed’ and that is the reason for their closures. Libraries are important because they offer support for the working class and elderly who need ‘to use computers if they don’t have internet at home’. Therefore, it is justified for people to fight and campaign to keep them open.
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