British libraries have been under the threat of budget cuts since 2010. The funding of libraries was cut £25m and fell to £919m in 2016 from £944 in 2014.
A number of authors have joined hundreds of protesters in the campaign to save the libraries throughout England, including Michael Rosen, author of We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, who told The Guardian: “How hypocritical of a government that claims to be on the side of the disadvantaged for them to be kicking away the means by which people can get access to knowledge, wisdom, fun and communal life.”
340 libraries have already closed their doors in the past eight years and an estimated 340 libraries will close in the next five years if action is not taken. Nick Poole, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, has started that he anticipates the list of endangered libraries to grow larger in 2017, as it is not an election year and ‘local politicians will try to get library cuts through.”
“What do libraries do for us? Well, they introduce many into the world of literacy and learning and help to make it a lifelong habit; they equalise; they teach empathy and help us to learn about each other; they preserve our cultural heritage; they protect our right to know and to learn; they build communities; they strengthen and advance us as a nation; they empower us as individuals.” —Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate 2013 to 2015
In a 2013 lecture, Neil Gaiman joined in on the outcry from authors against library closure, saying that it was “quite literally stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.”
The government’s Libraries task force has pledged an estimated £4m to support communities through libraries, although Dr. Lauren Smith, spokeswoman for Voices for the Library, has stated the funding was a “drop in the ocean” when compared to cuts that they have suffered. Dr. Smith continued on to say that “libraries’ most valuable assets are their staff but they are massively underpaid for the expertise they have: supporting literacy, digital engagement, finding information for citizens,” severely criticizing the government on their underpayment of library staff as a result of library cuts.
Although things are looking up, the government has issued their ambitions for public libraries from 2016 to 2021, where they have stated that they aim for all communities to have a library service helping different groups to come together and local services available through ‘community-hubs’. People of the local community would be able to “choose to use libraries because they see clear benefits and positive outcomes from doing so” and “understand what library services offer and how they can make the most of what’s available to them”
They plan to achieve these goals by 2021 by “strengthen libraries’ organizational and financial resilience through effective strategic planning, using a common set of design principles” and “equip[ing] library services to continue to innovate and adapt to meet users’ changing needs.”
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