UNISON, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign, Campaign for the Book and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals have announced they will hold a joint lobby of Parliament calling on politicians to protect vital library services. The lobby will take place at midday, on 13 March, at central Hall, Westminster.
During the lobby the campaigning group will highlight the importance of libraries in providing access to learning and as a vital lifeline for many communities.
Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, said: “Cutting libraries is not an easy solution for councils to save cash – it is a literacy time bomb for deprived communities.
“Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans to force them to take over the running of services, or lose them. These groups don’t have the time, skills and resources to take over the jobs of experienced library staff.
“A shocking 30,000 children are leaving primary school with a reading age of seven or below and libraries are a vital lifeline for community groups. We need a national vision of a modern library service, as an investment in the future generation.”
Ruth Bond, Chair of the national Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), said: “The NFWI is delighted to support the lobby of parliament. A threat to local library services is a threat to a community’s education and, as champions of libraries for the past 96 years, WI members are gravely concerned that so many local authorities are riding roughshod over educational resources while the Government watches in silence. It is simply not good enough to assume that volunteers will step in to continue providing services previously supplied by professionals; the Government cannot rely on community-minded individuals to step into the breach to bridge the gaps, and the loss of professional expertise is irreplaceable.
“Local libraries are a fundamental information and education resource. Whilst in their essence, libraries facilitate access to books and resources, they play a much wider role in promoting shared knowledge and equality of opportunity, facilitating community cohesion, and enabling life-long learning and literacy from cradle to grave.”
Abby Barker, from Voices for the Library, said: “Voices for the Library are urging anyone concerned for the future of the library service in the UK to get involved on March 13th. This is your chance to tell your MP how vital your local library service is, and to ask them to call the Secretary of State to task over his noticeable lack of involvement. The 1964 Museums and Public Libraries Act very clearly puts public libraries under the superintendence of the Secretary of State, however, Jeremy Hunt has yet to intervene on any level, even in the most extreme cases.”
Andrew Coburn, Secretary of The Library Campaign, said: “Public libraries still have a wide-ranging role in encouraging literacy and education as well as providing literature for leisure and information. MPs need to know what a real 21st century library service can provide – so that they can join the thousands who are trying to prevent their branches being closed and services mutilated.”
Alan Gibbons, Author and Organiser of Campaign for the Book said: “A reading child is a successful child. The National Literary Trust has found that a child who goes to a library is twice as likely to read well as one who doesn’t. The UK currently stands at 25th in the PISA International Reading ranking. Libraries are vital to improving this position. We have to fight for the defence and extension of public library services.”
Annie Mauger, Chief Executive of CILIP, said: “The professional skills and expertise of library staff are core to providing the public with a quality library service. Volunteers should supplement and enrich a professionally led service, not replace the knowledge and skills of staff. We are concerned that public library services in England are being damaged; the impact will be felt now and in the long term. We urge the Secretary of State to use his powers of intervention where there is clear evidence that the Public Libraries & Museums Act (1964) has been potentially breached. It is wrong to view public libraries solely as a cost; by providing opportunities for learning and literacy development libraries are an investment in communities, families and individuals.”
For more information please contact the UNISON Press Office
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UNISON (National News Release) – Tel: 0845 355 0845