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What she said: Customer (and I) on library closures.

Posted: July 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: quotes | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I’ve been meaning to post this potent quote for months. Six months old and sadly the UK & US library closures & cuts crisis continues mercilessly.

Closed sign by Emily Webber on Flickr.

What The Guardian said in January, 2011:

Sara Levy, 39, sat with three-year-old Ella, colouring in Spot the Dog on a computer screen, with three-week-old Ava asleep on her chest. “It’s the only local place you can come without spending money,” she said. “It’s local and friendly. And it’s classless.” : Library Customer Sara Levy.

What I said in July, 2011: Free, local, friendly, classless. Amen. So why, why are libraries closing at a dangerous rate?

Look at this UK & this USA map of closures & cuts. This is not okay.
For more info follow the #savelibraries hashtag on twitter.

A confession:  I don’t know enough about the state of affairs in my own country. Terrible I know, but honest. And no, not good enough David! Of course I have first-hand experience of tightening budget restraints, job scarcity & job security fears. And sure, I read articles & blog posts about Australian library closures & funding cuts and I’ve signed this important petition. However, I’m embarrassed to admit I remain lamentably & lazily uninformed.

I want to – and will – improve this situation. Perhaps with your help?

Dear reader:

  • pls leave a link in the comments to info about library closures & cuts in your neighbourhood (UK, USA, EU, Australia, everywhere!)
  • pls leave a link to anything I/we should read to learn more
  • what are you doing to raise awareness? what should I do?

  • Ian Anstice July 24, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Hi. I am the originator of the UK public library cuts map you link to (now done with assistance gratefully acknowledged from others) and the writer of the Public Libraries News blog which lists all cuts and closures going on in the UK, along with a fair bit else relevant to campaigners. The list is the only one of its kind in the UK and is used by the national media, librarians and other interested bodies.

    If you don’t know what is going on in your country, it’s likely no-one else does either. I assumed it was “someone else’s job” in the UK until I realised no, no-one else was doing it. So, get a blog going. List them yourself. Information, as we all know, is vital to people – make sure your fellows are not starved of it. If you want help, email me.

    The downside – I thought this was going to be a little job. It now takes me three hours a night. But then the UK library cuts are gigantic and I hope nothing like them happen in your country.

    • dpgreen August 7, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Ian, I apologise for my late reply. Thank you very much for your reply & advice; I appreciate it. Congrats to you & your friends on the cuts map & to you on the Public Libraries News blog. There is so much important info on the blog, & 3hrs/night is a huge commitment. I subscribe to the feed & I always find interesting & scary info I can relate to our own climate here, and the profession world-over. I really appreciate your offer of help regarding raising awareness here in Australia as I too (obviously) “hope nothing like this happens” here. It really is sad & scary reading what you & your colleagues – in the UK & abroad – are going through. And of course we must join & raise our voices to be heard. Good luck & please know that you are doing an essential job. Thanks again for your comment Ian.

  • bumsonseats July 25, 2011 at 7:18 am

    I agree with Ian’s comment above – if you have any chance to start compiling a list yourself do it! It’d be very interesting to see if Australia uses the financial crisis as a chance to cut libraries too!
    I think sometimes it’s hard to act or react to library closures, especially if you work in libraries yourself, and are not able (allowed?) to talk about what’s happening in your organisation (and it’s often such a minefield, so easiest not to talk!) and why. Some closures have been planned for years and it’s just unfortunate that they fall into the nation-wide cuts, whereas others are spontaneous and not well thought through. If only libraries were a bit better at explaining reasons and marketing themselves…

    • dpgreen August 7, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      Hi & thanks for your comment. Sorry it has taken an age to reply. You raise an interesting point about not being able to talk about cuts in your own organisation. I wonder if yourself, or Ian, or anyone else reading this, has found this topic to be, as you put it, “a minefield”? I guess at the end of the day, any threats to libraries & library staff are threats to the importance & vitality of libraries & our profession – regardless of where these cuts & closures are occurring. I agree, we need to focus on marketing ourselves to raise our profile & explain why we are vital & what it would mean to lose your local library &/or library worker.

  • bumsonseats August 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    In my own organisation we have the rule that we are not allowed to talk to the press; only the head of service can. Same for anyone asking about cuts, in case they are a journalist or important blogger in disguise. If we see any comments about our service online we must tell or line manager or the head of service, who will deal with the comments. On the one hand that’s good as it makes it easy and safe for staff but don’t you sometimes just want to shout and say what YOU think?! Also, I think sometimes it can be good for publicity if your staff explain something (rather than an ‘official’ person), as long as it’s ‘within party line’. Hard to monitor, I admit. Personally I have tried and avoided talks about cuts, although in our case I actually agree with them. It’s just bad timing for this one and nobody has explained that properly. Using the guise of the financial crisis was just convenient, I guess.

  • Ian Anstice August 8, 2011 at 7:37 am

    The subject is certainly a minefield. I cannot, being a librarian, discuss anything to do with my own authority – all of the information put on the site is about other authorities (or verbatim summaries of already printed material from other sites) and all the information is also presented as neutrally as possible. This is, frankly, actually a good way to do things – being too obviously partisan is a sure way of losing respect. The pages (not the Comment section) merely report and always have pros and cons listed.

    I know many librarians who are in favour of closing some libraries. I myself do not want to see unused libraries kept open out of some strange sense of tradition. Of course, I also think that good libraries should stay open and poor libraries should be improved. The whole digitisation thing is also a problem – people are in my experience either very pro-paper or very pro-digital and never the twain shall meet. This is surely not the way to go about things.

    Steering the best course is not easy and it is made harder still with massive (20% p.a. anyone? Try 50%) cuts being imposed. This is why it is so important for yourselves in Australia and elsewhere to get your act together if you have not already done so – when the axe comes, it sometimes falls too quick for your neck to avoid.

  • Hana August 11, 2011 at 7:08 pm