National Libraries Day

Today I’ve been along to Fallowfield Library – one of 6 Manchester libraries threatened with closure in the latest round of public service cuts – cuts due to the government’s austerity programme.  (And that’s working really well, isn’t it?)  The meeting room was packed and reflected the wide cross-section of local people who depend on the library and see it as the heart of their community.  From pensioners who meet there and find it a lifeline, a social hub, and who can only attend because it is near enough to walk, to children involved in youth activities  (no youth clubs are left in the area) or who use the computers and other resources for homework.  From students who study there and people who use the library to try and find jobs, to people who need help and advice and know the best place to start is at the library.  Then of course there are the people of all ages who go in to borrow books (including talking books and books in other languages) or DVDs, to read newspapers or get something photocopied.  The clear shared feeling at the meeting was that the library is the heart of the community and that losing it would be a life-blow to community cohesion.  ‘There’ll be nothing left,’ was said and repeated several times.  ‘It’s all we’ve got.’  There are no other community venues in the area and the library supports many local groups who meet there.  Back in June I wrote a piece for The Reading Agency for National Reading Group Day about what libraries mean to me – you can see it here.  Every person at the meeting today and those in libraries across the country will have their own stories to tell about what their library means to them.   And everyone there today who spoke, except the local authority’s Head of Libraries, was totally opposed to the proposals.