The value of our libraries

Today Unison are launching a national day of action against cuts to library services. It is part of their Save Our Local Services (SOS) campaign, and something which I am proud to support.

Unison report that 478 libraries have closed across Great Britain since 2010. Here in our city, the future of the much loved Hove library was in jeopardy until Green councillors forced the controversial plans to sell the building to be put on hold, and I have been active in opposing any cuts to libraries in my constituency, including at Patcham, Hollingbury, Coldean and Westdene.

We have seen smaller libraries merging, and many being forced to reduce their opening hours.  The number of paid library staff fell by almost 1,000 in the year up until March 2016 and that’s meant many libraries relying more and more heavily on volunteers. The tireless dedication of such individuals masks just how dramatic cuts to library services actually are: were it not for them, far more libraries would be lost from our communities. 

Libraries are at the heart of local life and they add value to our city, a value which is often difficult to see or measure. The contain vast possibilities and open doors to knowledge, escape and opportunity. That’s why I’ve called in Parliament for people’s statutory right to a quality library service to be protected.

Proper funding for library services is essential and I regularly take that message to Government. Today I call on all councillors in the city to resists library closures as a short term sticking plaster that does nothing to address the long term impact of allowing local public services to be attacked.

The writer Anne Herbert said, ‘Libraries will get you through times of no money, better than money will get you through times of no libraries.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Join The Discussion