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Action continues as people fight for libraries

Last week, local people held a sit-in at Friern Barnet lilbrary to protest at a Barnet council decision to close the library. Next week, local people will set up a People's Library outside the closed Friern Barnet Library. Meanwhile, Surrey library campaigners won a judicial review of a Surrey county council decision to have volunteers run ten libraries in Surrey - the council's decision to run the ten libraries with volunteers was ruled unlawful by the high court.

Speak up for Libraries logoIn this post, Gary Green from the Speak Up For Libraries campaign reports on a March Speak Up For Libraries lobby and explains how campaigners can keep up the pressure MPs to save local libraries as councils around the country continue to make cuts:

In March, campaigners from around the UK met in Westminster to lobby their MPs, in an attempt to protect public library services and to raise awareness about severe cuts to public libraries throughout the country.

The mass lobby of MPs was preceded by a rally in Central Hall, Westminster. During this rally, around 300 campaigners, authors and other library supporters assembled to hear national and local campaigners, politicians and authors emphasise how cuts have impacted on public library services and why libraries remain a vital service, despite the assumption by some that they are no longer relevant.

Following the rally, around 100 people went to the Houses of Parliament to lobby their MPs with the intention of approaching the government to:

• Enforce the law that says local authorities must provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service.
• Acknowledge that libraries are important to people – especially during a recession.
• Give libraries a long term future, with a vision for their development and clear standards of service.
• Ensure councils have enough money to provide quality services that are well-planned and sufficiently staffed.

Elizabeth Ash and Mar Dixon arranged a meeting with Justin Tomlinson MP, the chair of the Libraries All-Party Parliamentary Group and met him along with other campaigners. The discussion was very productive.

Early day motion - get your MP to sign.

In advance of the day, 229 separate MPs were contacted by their constituents via the Speak Up For Libraries website (many received emails from many people), urging them to show their support for libraries, as well as encouraging them to sign the Speak Up For Libraries early day motion. The early day motion can still be signed.

Many more people have also contacted their MPs directly since the lobby.

The early day motion asks:

"That this House recognises that public libraries are important community spaces and a vital public resource; acknowledges that many are under threat due to wide-scale budget cuts; is concerned about the impact of closures on social inclusion, social mobility and society more generally; welcomes the formation of Speak Up for Libraries, a coalition of national organisations and library campaigners that is leading a delegation of supporters from around the country to Parliament on 13 March 2012 in order to highlight the vital role that library services, run by professionally trained and qualified staff, play in the community and for individuals and therefore calls on the Government to undertake a thorough assessment of the state of the public library service and develop a national vision for the service."

At the last count 47 MPs had signed and more names are being added to the list of MPs showing their support. This is reassuring and it's still not too late for MPs to sign.

We encourage all library users to write to their MP asking them to continue to show their support for public libraries and add their name to the motion.

We would like to thank those people attended the rally, spoke or performed at it, lobbied their MP on the day, or just showed their support for the event - anyone who was prepared to Speak Up For Libraries. It was important that people made the effort to show the government that public libraries are valued.

Further details of the lobby, rally and Speak Up For Libraries coalition activities can be found on the Speak Up For Libraries website.

Live music at the rally was provided by One Man and His Beard, and Doyle and the Fourfathers frontman Will Doyle.

The full list of speakers on the day was Alan Gibbons (author & Campaign For The Book founder), Kate Mosse (author), Philip Ardagh (author), Ruth Bond (National Federation of Women’s Institutes), Dave Prentis (UNISON), John Dolan (Charted Institute of Library and Information Professionals), Dan Jarvis (MP and Shadow Minister with portfolio for libraries), Mar Dixon (Shropshire library campaigner), Ian Anstice (Public Libraries News site), Ian Clark (Voices For The Library), Elizabeth Ash (Croydon library campaigner), Andrew Coburn and Laura Swaffield (The Library Campaign).

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