Saturday 6th February marks National Libraries Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the value that libraries bring to our communities.
It’s not just the contents of the bookshelves that hold so much importance and value, the buildings themselves are vital hubs in our towns and cities; centres that bring people together to share experiences and knowledge.
I’ll be holding a drop in advice surgery at the Jubilee Library on the 5th February. I’ve held a number of my surgeries at local libraries before, and it’s an opportunity to speak to people who wouldn’t necessarily contact their Member of Parliament about an issue they’re facing. I’ll be in the café at the library, so I’m also hoping it will be an opportunity for tea and cake!
Locally there are a number of events taking place to mark National Libraries Day on the 6th February. More details are online here: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/leisure-and-libraries/libraries/whats-going-your-library.
With cuts in the funding that central government gives to local councils, many local authorities are having to make difficult decisions about the services they provide.
As a result of reduced funding, since 2010 443 public libraries have closed, and many more have seen changes to opening times and the services they provide.
That’s why I’m supporting the Speak up for Libraries campaign. I’ve signed their Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for people’s statutory rights to a quality library service to be protected. The EDM calls on the Government to provide sufficient funding for local councils to enable that to happen. I will also be supporting their lobby of Parliament on the 9th February: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2014-15/579.
Locally, Brighton and Hove City Council are currently running a consultation about proposed changes to library services in the city – including proposed changes at community libraries in my constituency; Patcham, Westdene, Coldean, and Hollingbury. You can have your say online here: http://consult.brighton-hove.gov.uk/portal/bhcc/libraries/change_to_service/library_services_consultation. The consultation is open until the 16th February.
For me, National Libraries Day is a day to celebrate all that they offer. It’s also an opportunity to take a look at the changes taking place to our library services up and down the country, and call for better protection to enable them to be part of our future – free from risk of closure. Something which is long overdue.
In her brilliant article on libraries Caitlin Moran writes: “A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold rainy island, they are the only sheltered space where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead.” I couldn’t agree more.