Save our libraries
At our family’s Christmas dinner, there was much hilarity as 4 separate copies of Stephen Fry’s autobiography were exchanged. Many of you reading this post may also have received books as a gift, and reading remains a hobby enjoyed by millions. Indeed hopefully some of you will have received our own book – poverty and social justice in Wales
So spare a thought for the future of reading and for people who can’t afford to buy books. The booktrust charity – which gives free books to children – has recently been under the threat of closure due to the general cuts. Furthermore, as part of the Big Society, several libraries up and down the country are under the threat of closure as some local authorities seek to make easy savings by replacing staff with volunteers.
Libraries play an increasingly important role in delivering social justice. They are not only places where people can borrow books for free, but are centres for information. They are public spaces where people can go to access the internet or a PC, can spend time during the day in a warm relaxed atmosphere (some people we interviewed as part of our research on fuel poverty had come to the library primarily to stay warm), and also places where several activities such as children’s reading classes occur. They thus perform a function that helps to tackle poverty and exclusion on numerous fronts from digital inclusion to adult literacy.
So the idea that they are an area where efficiency savings and cost cutting can occur without serious damage is absurd. The idea to replace experienced staff who perform roles ranging from IT tutors to social workers with volunteers is absurd. Volunteers come from all walks of life, and with a range of skills and experiences, and when used correctly can enhance an organisation and provide a valuable service. But to replace skilled staff with volunteers as part of a drive to reduce public expenditure is risible.
(Full disclosure: my step-sister is a librarian facing a 10% pay cut)
« Christmas on the Dole Increasing charitable giving, the dangers and opportunities »