Saturday is National Libraries Day, a day to celebrate and support our local libraries and shout out about how awesome they are. Sadly, many of us no longer have a local library to visit or celebrate.
Over 300 libraries have closed in the UK in the last four years; hundreds more have been passed out of council control and into the hands of private ‘partners’ or community volunteers. With promises that the next round of austerity cuts will be harsher still, things are not looking good for libraries.
At a time when one in three children does not own a book, library cuts will ensure that those children cannot borrow a book either. There is a certain irony in a government that wants to ‘wage war on illiteracy’ while quietly closing hundreds of libraries; it’s not just a missed opportunity, it’s a national scandal. Yes, the cost of running public libraries is high – but the cost of losing them is higher still. Closing local libraries can devastate a community, and the poorest areas are the hardest hit; it slams shut the doors on learning, imagination, and aspiration, taking away what can be the one safe place for people to meet and find support to build a better future.
Libraries belong to us, and we must not stand by silently and allow them to be closed – once lost, they will never be re-opened. Let’s value culture, creativity and opportunity for all; let’s speak out and let both government and local councils know how strongly we feel.
On National Libraries Day we can visit and support our local libraries, but we can do more too; we can stand up for those libraries. I am currently involved in a number of campaigns to protect threatened libraries; one peaceful and non-political way to protest is to send ‘love letters’ to our libraries, forwarding those letters to the councils who intend to close them.
We can send letters to David Cameron and Ed Vaizey too… and to our local MPs and party leaders, asking where they stand on library closures. Let’s not teach our children that Britain values its shopping malls more than it values learning, culture and imagination; we can make libraries a hot topic in the run up to the election, work together to try to change things. Libraries matter; let’s stand up for them.
Cathy Cassidy is the bestselling children’s author of the Chocolate Box Girls series and many other books. She grew up using three of Coventry’s libraries on a weekly basis, and believes that without these libraries she would not be an author today. Cathy now lives on Merseyside and instigated the ‘Love Letters to Liverpool Libraries’ campaign which helped to save eleven threatened Liverpool libraries recently; she is also part of the campaign to save seventeen Coventry libraries marked for closure.