Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Library Cuts: News from Campaign for the Book

Dear all,
You may have heard that the Wirral cuts have gone through. I enclose my statement below. The full story is on www.alangibbons.net. I am in Bahrain on a speaking tour so I have a limited address book with me. Please circulate this wildly.
Best wishes,
Alan Gibbons

Alan Gibbons comments:
“This is a very grim day for everyone who lives on the Wirral but also everyone who believes in the power of books to excite, nurture, nourish and inspire. The decision of the councillors who voted to push through the closure of eleven libraries in the face of huge popular protest amounts to nothing other than a calculated act of cultural vandalism. The only reason given for the reduction of service during this whole sorry saga was cost-cutting. Not one councillor engaged with the arguments of those who opposed this wretched philistinism. It is a bit rich for council leader Steve Foulkes to welcome the level of consultation. The whole point of consultation is to listen to the people you represent. Consultation without negotiation is a sham. Councillor Foulkes has ignored the arguments of the public in a graphic assault on local democracy. Once upon a time they burned books, now they close the doors and bar the community’s access through ill-conceived service reductions.
“Several Lib Dem councillors broke ranks. Sadly, not one Labour councillor had the decency to do the same. The Campaign for the Book is non political but I know that many of its supporters are life-long socialists and Labour voters. It is galling for them to see Labour councillors forcing through policies which will impact negatively on the right to read.
“Ironically, on the same day that Wirral’s decision was announced, it came to light that there has been a big jump in library membership across Cumbria. Almost 5,000 people joined the library between September and December last year, a 39% increase on the same period in 2007.
“Councillor Barbara Cannon said: ‘These are difficult times and the county council is working hard to help people through the recession. The library service is a resource that is there for everyone to use and I am heartened to see that people are recognizing this and joining up.”
“The Campaign for the Book agrees with that statement and wonders why Wirral council does not understand that, in a recession, people seek a refuge in culture. They want bread but they want roses too. We will continue to oppose this retrograde step. We call on all supporters to write to Andy Burnham at the DCMS asking for him to rule whether the council is providing a comprehensive and efficient service as required under the 1964 Museums and Libraries Act. If this fails then yes, councillor Foulkes, we will work with you to salvage a decent service from the carnage your administration has wrought in local communities. The Campaign for the Book will never shirk its responsibility to the reading community.”

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