Friday, 24 October 2014

SAVE LIVERPOOL LIBRARIES CAMPAIGN

Author Paula Rawsthorne says there's still time to get behind the campaign to Save Liverpool

Library services around the country continue to be under siege. Every week we hear of more councils closing much needed community libraries in their bid to make cuts.
As you may know Liverpool City Council is proposing to close eleven of its nineteen libraries and a final decision will be made in November.


Authors Cathy Cassidy and Alan Gibbons are running a tremendous campaign to stop the closures. They are showing the council the strength of feeling and support for these libraries and demonstrating how essential they are for the city. Their efforts have already seen hundreds of writers, actors and celebrities sign a petition to ask the council to reconsider and they’ve gained much needed media coverage. 

Cathy is asking people everywhere (not just in Liverpool) to write to the Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, to tell him what libraries mean to them in a ‘Love Letter to Liverpool’s Libraries’. 

A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “All letters and emails received regarding the review of the library service will be fed into the on-going consultation”. So please consider adding your voice to the campaign to save the Liverpool Libraries. 

You can send your letter to Mayor Anderson at the Town Hall, High Street, Liverpool L2 3SW or email to: http://liverpool.gov.co.uk/contact-us/contact-the-mayor/ 

Here’s ‘The Guardian’ article about the campaign

You can read more ‘Love Letters to Liverpool Libraries’
http://cathycassidydreamcatcher.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/a-love-letter-to-libraries.html?spref=tw

Below is my email to Mayor Anderson in support of the Liverpool Libraries.

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“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” ~Andrew Carnegie

Dear Mayor Anderson,

I’m a writer who lives in Nottingham but was born in Liverpool and on a recent trip home I went to visit Central Library. It’s somewhere I used to go to revise when I was in sixth form but I hadn’t seen it since its refurbishment. It didn’t disappoint. It’s a stunning place and the Picton Reading Room is a beautiful, inspiring space. Walking around the building I felt proud of the council and all who helped to bring this fabulous redevelopment to fruition. However, I was upset and dismayed to hear of Liverpool City Council’s proposal to close 11 of its 19 libraries.

I understand the context of these proposed closures. I understand the horrendous cut in the council’s overall budget that central government has imposed. I know that other services will suffer too and that you have hard decisions to make. However, I urge you to think of the impact now, and in the future ,of closing these libraries.
You may have done your analysis of the ‘performance’ of these individual libraries, but how can you put a price on the life-long benefits of everyone having free access to books. If the number of users in these particular branches are low, then the council’s challenge should be to encourage people into the libraries. We know that in the UK four million children have no access to books at home so, particularly in deprived areas, it’s important to make libraries as inviting and enticing as possible, not to shut them down!

My brother is a teacher in a Liverpool school where the majority of students come under ‘pupil premium’. The community libraries in the vicinity of the school are on the proposed closure list. Mayor Anderson, are you going to let these closures go ahead and so compound social and cultural deprivation in the most disenfranchised areas of the city?
It’s easier for councils to keep libraries open in middle class areas were they may be well used and any threat will be countered by very vocal protests by local residents. However, closing libraries in deprived areas is a slap in the face for people in those communities. What message does this give to the community about the city’s investment in them and their future? What hypocritical message does this give to people about the importance of reading and learning in light of the council declaring Liverpool a ‘City of Readers.’

One of the reasons that I love libraries is because they are buildings of democracy, open to everyone. When I visit my local library I see little kids and parents enjoying story-time with the librarian, I see job seekers using the internet, I see excluded students being taught by tutors, I see groups of elderly people talking animatedly about books, I see people, who are clearly sleeping rough, able to sit in the warmth and read the newspapers, I see artists displaying their work, students (young and old) revising for exams, people being taught computer skills and readers lost in the world of their chosen book. All libraries have the potential to be as vibrant as this and, in the market research commissioned by your city council, 84.9% of the respondents said that the role of the community library in the place they lived was very important. So please don’t dismantle places that should be at the heart of the community.

The majority of our government seems to have benefited from privileged upbringings which involved attending exclusive public schools. At these schools they learn that they are the future leaders of our country despite knowing nothing of how the vast majority of people live. Their wealth and education gives them this sense of entitlement. However, libraries open up a world of learning and imagination no matter what school you attend or what walk of life you’re from. Using libraries can help raise and achieve aspirations. When you enter a library a world of knowledge and storytelling is in front of you and free for the taking. Even with all our technology children need their libraries. When I do author visits in schools around the country I find the vast majority of teenagers prefer physical books and don’t have E readers or download novels.

So Mayor Andersen, along with thousands of other concerned people, I ask you to think again about the proposed closures, think about positive solutions so they can remain open, and please think about the future of the people you represent.

Yours sincerely

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Again, if you want to add your support please, send your letter to Mayor Anderson at the Town Hall, High Street, Liverpool L2 3SW or email to: http://liverpool.gov.co.uk/contact-us/contact-the-mayor/

Paula Rawsthorne is an award winning YA author and a writer in residence for First Story in a Nottingham secondary school.

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