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Save Our Libraries - Stand Up Against Library Closures!

Updated on January 25, 2013

Further Government Cuts Threaten the Future of UK Libraries

Save Our Libraries! This page brings you the latest news and updates on the worrying threat to UK public libraries - library closures, and looks at why libraries are just so important, as well as explaining why we can't let them go without a fight!

After the government cut funding to local government during the current economic crisis, and passed on responsibility for making the savings to local authorities, over 450 UK public libraries are now under threat from closure.

Yes, that's right. Over FOUR HUNDRED & FIFTY.

Thankfully, a backlash is forming right across the UK as people fight back against this tidal wave of threatened local library closures. But what can be done, and will it make any difference?

To add insult to injury, library users have been accused of being "white and middle class". So what about all the other people who use libraries, many of whom see them as a lifeline? What about the 1 in 5 people who don't have internet access at home? What about the mums and toddlers who want to visit the library for storytime?

Find out everything you need to know about the current library crisis in the UK, and what you can do to help stop it from happening.

"What in the world would we do without our libraries?"

- Katharine Hepburn

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

The Threat of Library Closures across the UK

So, here's the deal. As part of the economic crisis in the UK, and the Conservative Government's continued pledge to cut the immense UK deficit left by the former Labour Government, Eric Pickles and friends have cut funding to local government, leaving these local authorities with the deciding choices in how to make the necessary savings. While some are being perfectly sensible about their decisions, other local authorities are slashing vital public services, with the biggest casualty being public libraries.

At present, 451 libraries (386 libraries and 65 mobile libraries) are under threat of complete closure or have already closed, out of a total 4,517 libraries in the UK (figures by CILIP). One of the worst offenders is Gloucestershire, where the number of local libraries with full opening hours are being reduced from 38 to just 9. Only 9 fully open libraries in an entire county? Elsewhere, in Oxfordshire, 20 libraries out of 43 are up for the chop. If Oxfordshire isn't safe, where is?

While it is perfectly understandable that cuts have to be made in this country, the government should be thinking long and hard about what exactly it DOES cut, and at what cost.

Public libraries are vital public services. Not only do they provide the obvious - free books - they also provide an information lifeline for many. Sadly, many have fallen into decline over the past few years, either through lack of funding or lack of use. And now look where that has gotten us - on the brink of losing them altogether.

There is talk of legal challenges, but only time will tell if these come to fruition. There is some hope; the other cost-cutting proposal that caused outrage amongst the UK public was that of the plan to sell off our national forests. Thankfully, public outcry caused the government to do an embarrassing u-turn and throw out the plans. But, the library closure plans stay, and are growing.

So what to do? First, read the speech below by Philip Pullman. Then, peruse the ideas, links, information and campaigns below, and do something, anything, to get involved, and make a difference. Please.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

Do you agree with the proposed library closures in the UK?

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Leave the libraries alone.

Author Philip Pullman Stands Up for Libraries! - Rousing Oxford Speech Goes Viral

Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials and other children's literature.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On 20th January 2011, author Philip Pullman (best known for the trilogy His Dark Materials, the first book of which was made into the film, The Golden Compass), made a rousing speech at Oxford, speaking out against the proposed closures of over 400 libraries across the UK, 20 of which are to be in Oxfordshire alone (almost half of the current tally).

Philip's speech resonated so much with the British public that it soon went viral, being quoted and tweeted and blogged about across the world wide web. If you haven't already read it, follow the link below, because if this wonderful speech doesn't have you down at your local library with a protest placard, nothing will.

"Somewhere in Blackbird Leys, somewhere in Berinsfield, somewhere in Botley, somewhere in Benson or in Bampton, to name only the communities beginning with B whose libraries are going to be abolished, somewhere in each of them there is a child right now, there are children, just like me at that age in Battersea, children who only need to make that discovery to learn that they too are citizens of the republic of reading. Only the public library can give them that gift."

Like Pullman and countless others, I was one of those children, and I want my children to be those children too.

What did you think of Philip Pullman's speech about Library Closures?

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

Did you agree with Philip?

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Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

Save Our Libraries Day

5th February 2011

As public unrest grew over the proposed library closures, a plethora of local campaigns, events and read-ins were planned. CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) has announced gave its support for Save Our Libraries Day, which took place on 5th February 2011, They said:

"We want everyone who cares about reading, literacy and libraries to use their public library on the 5th February and tell as many people as they can to do the same."

The CILIP website (see below) has a list of tips and ideas on how you can continue to get involved with helping to save our public libraries as well as reportage from the events that took place around the country for the special day.

Libraries held all manner of superb events, including mass "sit-in's" or "read-in's" where people joined together inside their local libraries to read books. Find out if there are any future events in your area by checking the links further down the page.

Let's get talking about Libraries!

Let's get talking about Libraries!
Let's get talking about Libraries!
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

Library Closures Spread to America

Sadly, the threat of library closures is spreading. Proposed budget cuts in America do not bode well for libraries there either. Find further information at the links below:

Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation
Photo Credit: Jupiter Images Corporation

You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.

Why Libraries Are Important

As a former School Library Manager, I know a thing or two about defending libraries. I have extolled the virtues of the library to kids who would rather play computer games all day. I have fought tooth and nail over budgets, and too much integration with technology, and battled against the rise of internet-based homework. I have waved exciting new books under the noses of reluctant readers and managed to sway them. So yes, I am passionate about libraries, and books, and reading.

Yes, I am a former librarian, and I'm biased. Yes, I am a writer, and a reader, and that still makes me biased. I am also white and middle class, the two things that the head of Museums, Libraries and Archives Council recently accused public library users of being.

But for every other person "like me" (the librarians, the readers, the authors, the white middle class), there are countless others. The working class, the ethnic minorities, the inner city kids, the mums with toddlers who want somewhere nice and friendly to take their kids, the elderly and the young alike, the folks with the slow computer or the 1 in 5 UK adults who don't have internet access at home.

What about them? Don't they care about libraries too? Of course they do.

The above quote is taken from Philip Pullman's recent speech against the library closures, and no truer words could have been spoken. Public libraries are the jewels in our communities, or at least they should be. In an ideal world, local government should be throwing money at libraries, not taking it away, let alone closing them down.


Because of the children discovering the joy and excitement of reading. Because of the thrill of finding out your local history or family tree hidden in the archives. Because of the students revising or the home educators tracking down resources. Because of the wealth of information available to you, for free, whether you want to learn a new skill or undergo serious research into an obscure subject. Because of the community spirit. Because of the books, and the stories therein, and the wonderful, wonderful thing that is reading.

I could list countless more ways, but I won't. I think Philip Pullman summed it all up pretty nicely.

I'll simply leave you with this thought - imagine a world without libraries. Imagine a world where you could only have access to books by having to buy them (and then find somewhere to put them). Imagine the scores of children who would lose out on the joy of reading because their parents can't afford to buy them any. Imagine the skills gone to waste and the hobbies never discovered because the resources just weren't available. Imagine the publishers and book sellers growing even richer because people had no choice other than to buy books, not borrow. Imagine the waste.

I'll close with the quote that I started with, courtesy of Katharine Hepburn.

"Where in the world would we be without our libraries?"

Where indeed. I don't want to think about it. Do you?

Are our Libraries Too Important to Lose?

Are our libraries too valuable to lose? Why?

Yes, because...

Yes, because...

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    • eightieschild 4 years ago

      Fully agree! I read a hundred or more books every year, and couldn't afford to buy them all, so rely heavily on my local library, which is fortunately just 3 or 4 mins walk from my house, so would hate to lose it.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      The people need a place to go and read, not everyone has computers and even those that do sometimes like to go and study at libraries. Besides, our children need this experience.

    • Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

      Libraries are more than a collection of books. Libraries bring a literate community together. Story hour delightfully invites children to learn to read. Reading clubs give preteens and teens intellectual alternatives to hanging out on the street. Computer access makes the Internet available to all. Cutting libraries opens the gap between rich and poor both intellectually and economically. Don't cut libraries!

    • Philippians468 6 years ago

      yes definitely! they are the compilation of our knowledge! cheers

    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Yes, because once we lose them, we've lost the ongoing story of humanity.

    • Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Community resources built up over decades, a service to all age groups, a vital building block in child development - the list goes on and on.

    • Liz Mackay 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Yes, they provide learning for all. I only buy secondhand books now, I can't afford new ones.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Internet and online libraries cannot replace the physical libraries. The move to close libraries is weird and downright outrageous.

    • Carolan Ross 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      This is outrageous! The very idea of closing libraries is absurd and utterly ridiculous.

    • ulla_hennig 6 years ago

      I am German, living in Berlin. A lot of people need public libraries, because books cost a lot of money and they can't afford to buy them. Public libraries are too important to lose, they are a part of our culture!

    • Wendy Henderson 6 years ago from PA

      I like the feel of a book in my hand. It would be really sad without a Library.

    • Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Not everyone can afford home internet access or to buy the books they need. Libraries make information accessible to everyone, not just the well-to-do.

    • Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      Libraries provide a vital public service and to lose so many would be a travesty.

    No. because...

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      No comments yet.

      What Can I Do?

      * Get involved with your local libraries' events and campaigns

      * Write to your local authority.

      * Spread the word, locally, through social networking, blogs and more

      * Sign petitions or set one up

      * And most importantly of all, SUPPORT your local library! Take out books, use their services!

      What do YOU make of all this? Are you horrified by the proposed closures of UK libraries? Indifferent? Not surprised?

      If you're outside of the UK, are you experiencing this threat in your own country during the global economic crisis? If not, are you worried by this UK trend and do you think it will affect you in the future?

      Have your Say on Proposed UK Library Closures - Please Leave Comments and Feedback Here

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        • Gloriousconfusion profile image

          Diana Grant 3 years ago from United Kingdom

          I'm on the Committee of one of the library support groups in London, fighting tooth and nail to make libraries a local community hub. We have all sorts of activities at our library. I am also a member of a community library When the local authority tried to close it down and sell of the buildings, there was a sit in, and the council were taken to court. The community won a temporary reprieve from closure. The council completely emptied the building, but the local people brought so many books and shelves and tables and what-have-you that in the end the library was turning away books. It is staffed by volunteers,

        • eightieschild profile image

          eightieschild 4 years ago

          Just popped back to let you know that I've just nominated this lens for LOTD, so fingers crossed eh. ;)

        • melissiaoliver profile image

          melissiaoliver 5 years ago

          I live in the UK and think it's awful how so many councils are cutting back on essential services like libraries (of course, the councils argue that libraries aren't essential... nonsense). The problem boils down to the fact that councils are greedy and can't be bothered to spend money on maintaining decent public services. And they won't accept volunteers running the libraries either... why I don't know. One of the libraries in my area has just closed; I cycle past it every morning on my way to work and it makes me feel very sad. Children at the local primary school won't be able to get books from there now; it will definitely have an impact on the wider community.

          I think the only way we're going to be able to reverse this trend is to tackle the culture of greed of local authorities - people should have more of a say in what their local council does or doesn't do.

        • TransplantedSoul profile image

          TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

          Libraries are so important. We find the money for sports teams - Libaries should be far more important.

        • profile image

          anonymous 5 years ago

          beautiful article, I love writers like you who take time to writing award winning reading material.

        • evelynsaenz1 profile image

          Evelyn Saenz 5 years ago from Royalton

          Squid Angel Blessed!

        • profile image

          TollysWorld 5 years ago

          As I said in my letter to the Somerset Libraries consultation, I think it highly likely Councils will get willing volunteers to run the proposed community libraries, but these will become little more than aging fiction book-swap clubs, being run and used mainly by middle-class, middle-aged, white women (just like me). These unqualified volunteers will not be able to offer any outreach services, to encourage and cater for young people, offer expertise with informationn finding and use, keep-up indexes and catalogues to aid searching, assist with ICT and other media (if they still exist!), know what and how to buy new materials â and buy them, etc. etc. etc.

          Furthermore, once Councils go down this road and los their staffâs expertise and skill base, the service will decline further (which will, no doubt, lead to a reduction in people using the services and the Councils saying there isnât a need for the services because no-one is using them - and so the self-fulfilling downward spiral will continue). Such dumbed-down, out of date book clubs, with probably very restricted opening hours, will not only be an affront in a civilized society but also will not actually cater for, nor engender, the Big Society: a great many potential users (particularly the young and ethnic minorities) will be put off entering such parochial places, thereby negating one of the most important roles of public libraries, that of being socially inclusive by providing a non-threatening, non judgemental space, with a range of resources freely available to all.

          Consequently, I see the current the proposals to cut and downgrade public libraries are a backward step per se, would appear to contravene Councils' statutory duties and their timing is both retrograde and a wasted opportunity in the current climate: MORE people will have less money and increased (albeit enforced) free time and hence will actually need greater access to LOCAL services and the skilled help necessary to find and utilise up to date information and leisure resources.

        • Philippians468 profile image

          Philippians468 6 years ago

          i have fond memories of libraries! i love them all! especially the old books! cheers

        • WildFacesGallery profile image

          Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

          I'm from a very small town in the US and we have to work hard to keep everything, our grocery our post office and our library. The only way to save them is to keep using them.

          Wonderfully done lens and so deserving of a purple star. Blessed to boot. :)

        • profile image

          grannysage 6 years ago

          I was here, wandered off, wandered some more, and then came full circle by going back to FB. I didn't want to miss my chance to congratulate you on the well-deserved purple star. Libraries should be sacred ground. It reminds me of the burning of the Alexandria library. How can people even think about closing them?

          And thanks for blessing Ritchie Blackmore's lens.

        • Nancy Hardin profile image

          Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

          I'm not in the UK, but with all the cutting of expenses both local and national here in the U.S., we have to know somewhere, someone is going to say, "Well, we can do without a few libraries." We cannot and should not have to do without libraries. They are essential to ours and our children's lives. Very upsetting.

        • ChrysW LM profile image

          ChrysW LM 6 years ago

          @ChrysW LM: BTW, I've lensrolled and referenced this in my . Your lens is great!

        • ChrysW LM profile image

          ChrysW LM 6 years ago

          My husband is British (and I'm Canadian) - living in Canada - but we visit the UK quite often and the libraries there have been a wonderful resource while travelling. I can only hope that the UK government rethinks this!

        • KimGiancaterino profile image

          KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

          Libraries are very important. Thanks for letting people know how to get involved in saving them.

        • Luminosity LM profile image

          Luminosity LM 6 years ago

          Libraries and librarians need to repurpose their selves as center of community and learning.

          So that we might all be able to get an education no matter how rich or poor we are.

        • LizMac60 profile image

          Liz Mackay 6 years ago from United Kingdom

          This is a great lens, helping with the campaign to save libraries in Britain. Blessed by a squid angel.

        • JenOfChicago LM profile image

          JenOfChicago LM 6 years ago

          Wonderful lens! Libraries are crucial to our civilization for so many reasons! We must stand up for them!

        • Faye Rutledge profile image

          Faye Rutledge 6 years ago from Concord VA

          Great lens and information. I love a library and visit often.

        • nangaye-steve profile image

          Steve Charles 6 years ago

          When I was a kid the library was practically my second home. I can't imagine that there will ever be a time when they won't be there - the whole thing about closing any of them is just absurd. Thanks for bringing this issue to more people's attention.

        • Spook LM profile image

          Spook LM 6 years ago

          Excellent lens and I agree with you wholeheartedly? Good luck tomorrow.

        • profile image

          poutine 6 years ago

          Benjamin Franklin must be rolling over in his grave..

          What a shameful to do!

        • profile image

          anonymous 6 years ago

          A very thought provoking lens on a topic that benefits the masses. Libraries are the heart of the community and help increase literacy in society for those who cannot afford.

        • profile image

          WorldVisionary 6 years ago

          Thanks for taking on such a great cause! Blessed by a Squid Angel

        • traveller27 profile image

          traveller27 6 years ago

          I don't live in the UK, but there have been library closures in Canada, too. As someone in a library-oriented career, I find it a real shame.

        • CrossCreations profile image

          Carolan Ross 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

          The global economic crisis is real, yet closing libraries??? Appalling news!

        • Virginia Allain profile image

          Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

          I'm glad to see people taking a stand. Politicians often see libraries as a frill that can easily be cut from the budget. Taxpayers need to speak up to protect this valuable resource in their community!