Monday, 16 June 2014

Libraries under threat

Leicestershire County Council is conducting a "review" of library services, claiming that there are insufficient funds available to maintain this service.

Their proposal is to maintain the 16 "most used" libraries (although whether they are actually the most used remains disputed), whilst the rest will close unless community / volunteer groups come forward to run them.

In the first instance, the premise that there are insufficient funds is flawed.  Last year, the county council consulted residents on how they should respond to the challenges brought about by the government's austerity policies.  An overwhelming majority of people stated that they would be prepared to pay a small increase in council tax in order to protect services such as libraries.  This was ignored by the county council, who chose instead to freeze council tax, in line with government's wishes.  A small increase of less than £1 per week would have protected these services.

Secondly, why go into "consultation" with half the decision already made?  Why not consult on the viability of all libraries, instead of ring-fencing some, leaving the rest feeling like they are treated as second-class?

Most importantly, why threaten any libraries with closure?  It's not that many years ago since the county council promoted the "right to read" programme run by the Leicestershire Education Business Company - how will closing libraries help the right to read?  
Libraries are not just about books - many people without internet access use their libraries to access online services - without this, how will they be able to access these services, especially as the government is promoting "digital by default"?
The county council's own website lists the various services provided by libraries - all of which are under threat as a result of the proposed closures.

Everybody should have the ability to access a local library, regardless of where they live - this is one of those things that should not be sacrificed on the altar of austerity, or be judged on whether or not they pay their way.

Libraries for all!!

1 comment:

  1. It's crazy, isn't it!!! They threatened to close our local one but because of a HUGE petition, they didn't. I got all the kids in school to sign the petition!