Since we launched our #WhyBooksMatter campaign to keep libraries open and fight for wider access to books, we have received incredible support from readers, authors and literacy campaigners. Last week the urgency and scale of the challenge was thrown into sharp relief when the Local Government Association highlighted the scale of cuts looming over communities across Britain, warning that cash earmarked for libraries and other services will be diverted to meet a £2.6bn funding gap by 2020.
But there is hope. Many under-threat libraries across the UK have been spared closure thanks to vigilant and passionate campaigners. In our essential library-saving toolkit, they share the keys to their success.
It may seem obvious but any successful library campaign must start by showing the library is cherished by the community. Campaigners trying to save Adlington Library in Lancashire, placed under threat of closure early last year, held a ‘read-in’ at the library, and around 500 turned up to show support. The Friends of Adlington Library (FoAL) group then encouraged people to take out as many books as possible to drive up demand. “You have to show how valued the service is because it becomes the key argument,” says FoAL’s Caroline Hesketh. “Initially the council said people in the area were well-off enough to travel to find another library but I think they realised how isolated many would be without it.”
We were there for every council meeting, every surgery. You have to let them know you’re not going away
In October 2016, Lancashire County Council agreed to keep the library open and have given Friends of Adlington Library the chance to run it as a registered charity from March 2018.
An online petition may not be effective on its own but campaigners say it is still one of a number of ways of informing council bosses and elected officials of the strength of public feeling. In Scotland, North Lanarkshire Council decided in December 2016 to keep Newarthill Library open after a feisty local campaign against proposed closure.
Angie Walker, one of the Save Newarthill Library campaigners, says the group circulated pro-forma letters for the library’s supporters to sign, and more than 1,500 were delivered to the council’s HQ.