Thursday, 7 April 2011
A UNISON Briefing for Local Elections Love your Libraries by Lucille and Hannah
UNISON LOCAL ELECTION BRIEFING: LIBRARIES
UNISON says ‘Love Your Libraries’!
The UK public library service has existed for over 150 years. Responsibility to provide library services is set out in the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, which states that it is ‘the duty of every library authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service’.
Libraries are a valued community resource for many people from all walks of life, in cities, towns and villages up and down the country. UNISON’s long-running ‘Love Your Libraries’ campaign has recently stepped up a gear in order to address the huge challenges facing services following the Comprehensive Spending Review and disastrous local settlements.
Cuts to library services – key facts
• There are currently 4,517 libraries in the UK. At present, 521 are threatened with closure – over 10% of all libraries
• This figure includes 61 mobile services, which provide a vital lifeline to many, including schools, older and disabled people
• Only 11 local authorities have indicated that they will not cut services
• In a recent survey, 74% of users surveyed described libraries as ‘essential’ or ‘very important’ in their lives
• Furthermore, 59% of non-users also think libraries play an ‘important’ or 'essential’ role in the community
• Libraries have been viewed as soft targets for cuts by many local authorities – despite the fact that spending on these services equates to only 1% of their overall budget
• Libraries have suffered years of under-investment – spending on new books and total book stock has fallen by over 15% over the last ten years
• Yet where investment has occurred, for example in Wales, there has been an increase in visitors to public libraries by 5.6%
Challenging the cuts
Recent press coverage has demonstrated that people have been prepared to mobilise in great numbers to campaign to protect local library services, as seen during the coordinated day of action on 5th February, where ‘read-ins’ were held all over the UK. These ‘grassroots’ activities shows how important library services are to local people and communities.
What UNISON wants election candidates to do:
UNISON is urging local election candidates to oppose library cuts and instead commit adequate resources and funding for libraries, staff and premises, as a long-term investment in the future of their communities. There are key questions to ask candidates in your council elections:
What are the plans in your area for library services?
How is the local community being consulted on the proposals?
How are the views of staff helping to shape proposals?
How well thought out are these proposals?
Will you argue against any closure plans if elected?
If elected, will you ensure that trained, experienced employees are retained to run local libraries?
How will you ensure investment in new library stock if elected?
UNISON LIBRARY CONTACTS:
Lucille Thirlby – firstname.lastname@example.org
Hannah Bailey – email@example.com
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