A day of protest Read-Ins happened across the country on 5th February 2011, and many campaigns are holding them in protest to local cuts. But what are Read-Ins, and why are they important?

What’s a Read-In?

Quite simply, Read-Ins are a way of demonstrating the need for public libraries and disagreement with local councils’ decisions. They’re family-friendly, peaceful and bring together people from all over the community who share the belief that public libraries are a vital public service. It really is up to you as to what will be happening at your Read-In. It could be exactly what it says on the tin – a large group of people descending upon the library to read quietly. Or, it could be a much more vibrant event. Save Doncaster Libraries have been holding Read-Ins since July. There have been authors, poets and musicians who’ve put on entertainment, not only to lift the spirits of people fighting library closures, but also to show what kind of things can take place in libraries that are of real value to communities, particularly young children and families. Members of the public have spoken publicly about what the library service means to them and how their lives will change for the worse without it. And of course, Read-Ins are the perfect place to get lots of people to sign petitions against cuts to libraries. Here are some photos from Doncaster events:

Warmsworth read-in group

Why Are Read-Ins Important?

Campaign groups have been working around the country to advocate for libraries and argue that the public needs them. They have been trying to convince councils that cuts to library services are a false economy that will cost councils more money in the long-term even though libraries continue to be incredibly important (in fact, many argue that libraries are more important now than ever). Campaign groups, authors and the public have been holding protests and communicating with councils, but severe cuts are still being proposed. It’s important for people to engage with what’s going on around them and to show the council and the councillors they vote for that cuts to libraries are not acceptable. Read-Ins are an excellent (and fun!) way to do that.

When: Any time that works strategically for your library campaign. For the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign, that’s 29th January, as soon as we can after the extent of the cuts in Doncaster is announced on 11th January in the Mayor’s budget, and then 5th February, which is the announced national day of action against library cuts. There’s still time for you to organise something for that day, and Alan Gibbons will help to publicise it through national media channels if you send details to him by mid-January. Pick a time to hold the Read-In. It could be a couple of hours long, or last the whole day. Make sure you check the opening times of the library! Saturdays are the best day, obviously, so that more people can get involved.

Where: Wherever there’s a library under threat. You could hold a Read-In at the threatened branch itself, or at the central library of the town it’s in, if the smaller branch itself is hard to reach. An event at the central branch might be more practical and effective. For example, Doncaster is the largest metropolitan borough in the country, which means that it can be difficult, expensive and take a long time for people to get from one side of the borough to the other, hence the Read-In at the central branch on 29th January, even though the central library itself (as far as we know) isn’t set to close.

Warmsworth read-in

How: After you’ve picked a date and time, publicise it.

Police: The first thing it can be helpful to do is let the local police station know that there will be a Read-In. Remember, you have a right to protest and you’re not obliged to let the police know if you’re not organising a march, but it can be helpful. They can give advice about what to avoid (like obstructing public rights of way). Let them know it’s not a militant or violent protest. As soon as you mention libraries, they’ll probably laugh and say “right, so we don’t need to send a riot van then”, which is what I’ve experienced!

Communities: Make phonecalls, send emails, start a Facebook group and set up an event, give out flyers, put up posters in local shops, put an advert in the local paper, spread the word when you’re in the Post Office and ask people to mention it when they’re out and about.

Media: Let local (and national) newspapers and radio stations know. Journalists are more likely to pick up on the event if you send them a press release. There’s advice about how to write one here. Tell unions and anti-cuts organisations like False Economy, UK Uncut, Coalition of Resistance and Unison. Voices for the Library and Alan Gibbons will help to publicise your event.

It’s a good idea to designate a media contact for the event in case journalists want to interview someone beforehand or come to the event and interview someone there. They’re likely to want to know:

  • What cuts are being made
  • Which libraries are under threat
  • How many members of staff are likely to lose their jobs
  • By how much the book budget will be cut
  • Who stands to lose out because of the cuts
  • What impact the cuts will have
  • What new things are being proposed (for example, replacing paid staff with volunteers or self-service machines)
  • Why volunteers can’t and shouldn’t run a library service
  • How the decision-making processes of the council are flawed
  • How cuts to libraries are counter-productive and disproportionate

Gather together as much information as you can and be prepared to answer questions. You can use the information to make flyers with key information on them to give out at the event, too.

You need to think about what you’re going to do with people when they all turn up at the library. Some ideas are:

  • Ask people to sign a petition against proposed cuts and closures. Some councils don’t allow petition-signing to take place on council property (although most do), so it might be best to do it as people go in and out. Or, just make sure you don’t do it inside if you’re asked not to and shown the proof that you’re not allowed to ;)
  • Use the library! Browse the shelves, borrow resources, use the PCs, read the newspapers.
  • Encourage people to join the library if they’re not already members.
  • Get people to talk about what libraries mean to them, and how it will affect them if the library service is cut.
  • Hold readings of favourite books.
  • Get the kids involved – take some costumes, read aloud, get them drawing and writing, dancing and singing.
  • Have a musical interlude.
  • Get people to write to their MP and the council.
  • Maybe walk in and out a few times to really up the footfall statistics ;)

Wheatley read-in

Who: Everybody. The point of public libraries is that they’re there for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or political affiliation. Libraries are non-judgemental, democratic institutions that are open to all. It’s important for library campaign groups to be non-Political (with a big P) and promote the values of the public library. This means being welcoming to all and not discouraging anyone from taking part. It’s therefore important for publicity like flyers, posters and banners to be free of logos and have an inclusive tone. It may well be that your potentially strongest supporters may well have changed their mind about who they voted for in the first place, and being openly anti-whoever could prevent them from making their voices heard.

Useful Links

Your Rights – Static Demonstrations and Assemblies

Your Rights – Protests on Private Land

Most of this information was originally published on VftL member Lauren’s blog. Images are from the Save Doncaster Libraries campaign read-ins.

24 thoughts on “Read-Ins

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  3. Irena Pritchard

    Dear Voices,
    We are planning a “read in” at the Bentham Library in North Yorkshire on Saturday 5th February 2011. We are planning to have people read passages from their favourite books or poems through the morning. We are contacting the school and are hoping to have children dressed as their favourite storybook characters and also do some reading.
    We are inviting national writers to contribute if possible.
    We are contacting local and national media about this proposed closure.
    If Bentham closes, the nearest Library would be 12 miles away and there is no public transport to get there.


  4. mhhaslam

    Dear Friends,
    The Weekly News would like a photo of Llanfairfechan residents objecting to the proposed closure with petition forms outside the library tomorrow morning at 9am.
    Please tell everyone you know, sorry about the short notice, only just been told.


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  6. Robert Sanderson

    Sandown Library, Isle of Wight. One of our readers has organised a Read in for Saturday the 5th of February. A number of local Isle of Wight authors are coming in to read from 11am and there will be childrens story time in the afternoon. The Isle of Wight has 11 libraries at the moment, five of those will be closed at the end of March 2011, and a further four will close at the end of March 2012. This will leave the Isle of Wight with two libraries, at Newport and Ryde.


  7. Pingback: Advance notice of anti-cuts events from Monday 31st Jan 2011 and into February and March – mainly Nottingham & Notts | Notts Save Our Services

  8. Mark Smith

    There is a Read-in at Norbury Library to oppose the possible closure by Croydon Council on Saturday 5th. 11am-1pm.
    Actor, Ralph Ineson (Amycus Carrow in Harry Potter) will be reading to kids who are coming in Harry Pootter style costume or as their favourite book charcter.

    We do mean business and we intend to fight to Save Norbury Library.


  9. Shirley Gaston

    There is a peaceful protest at Pateley Bridge library in North Yorkshire at 10am on Saturday 5th. Unfortunately our library does not open on a Saturday so we will march down to the ‘super mobile’ and do an hour’s read-in there. Placards, petitions and authors reading – it will all be happening and we really hope to get Janet Street-Porter along as she has already spoken out in the Independent about our library. It is 10 miles from the nearest other library and the hub of Nidderdale.


  10. Lee Newham

    We are having a Read-in on the 5th at Sydenham Library, one of 5 libraries out of 11 that Mayor Steve Bullock is looking at closing. Our read-in is from 11.30 to 1.00pm. Come and join in our day celebration in honour of Sydenham Library

    Highlights include:
    11.30 Rhyme Time.
    12.00 A reading from Baroness Mary Warnock.
    12.15 Local poet and author Chrissie Gittins will be reading her poem ‘Longing to be Heard’ in honour of Sydenham Library.
    12.25 Jim Helmore & Karen Hall, authors of ‘Stripy Horse’ to read an excerpt from one of their books.
    12.35 Local author Julie Day will read from her book ‘Rosie and the Sick School’.
    12.45 Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan to read an excerpt from her book ‘Hopscotch & Handbags’.
    13.00 Balloon release outside the library.
    There will also be an appearance by dub group Sly and Reggie performing their song ‘We Love Libraries’.

    Good luck to everyone with their campaigns.


  11. Anonymous

    We are having a mass read in and read out loud at Stapleford Library in Nottinghamshire 11:00 – 14:00.

    Please come along, encourage your friends to join the library and take out your maximum amount of books on your card. I shall be reading out loud, daffodils with a 50 percent cut.


  12. Pingback: Voices for the Library» Blog Archive » Feb 5th – Save our libraries day of action

  13. Ruth Burnell

    Read -in at Colburn library, North Yorkshire on Saturday 5th February from 11am there will be stories and other activities and a petition to sign.

    Please come and support the library and the brilliant people who work there!


  14. Pingback: Read-in and read-out protests at Beeston, Sneinton & Stapleford libraries on Saturday 5th February 2011 | Notts Save Our Services

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  18. Librarian

    There’s also a read-in taking place at Minet Library in Lambeth this Saturday 12th February, 2.30-4.30pm. Last weekend saw read-ins and demonstrations of library support across the country for local libraries, whose services are currently under threat. However, this small branch missed out and so local residents have jumped to the task of professing their love of this small library, which although partially destroyed by incendiary bombs on December 8, 1940, survived, and with the help and support of the local community it maintains a lively, thriving existence to this day.

    Local and award-winning novelists SARAH WATERS, EDMUND DE WAAL and STELLA DUFFY have stepped up to the plate to help support the Lambeth borough MINET Library read-in.

    There’ll also be face-painting, and a flying visit from The Itinerant Poetry Library.

    Kate Hoey MP will be opening the event.

    Turn up to support and eat free cake!


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