What can you do?

Your library needs you! by Phil Bradley

Want to get involved in saving libraries? Here’s some advice about what you can do to help protect the UK’s public libraries, along with some campaigning tips, and links to resources.

As an individual

If you value your local library, tell the librarians. Fill in a comment card – either in the library or online. If there is a problem with your local library, tell a librarian. Management and councils listen to suggestions made by the public. Remember, libraries are provided for you.

Take part in your council’s consultation. Most consultations are available online from the council’s website. You should also be able to pick up a consultation sheet from your local library.

Email, write, or call your local councillor and your MP. Remember, they work for you. Even if there aren’t currently any cuts planned in your area, it might be useful to inform councillors and MPs that you value your public libraries. If you have a friendly councillor, get them to ask for a named vote when it comes down to council meetings deciding on closures (this means each councillor’s vote is recorded and so they are more accountable to the public). You can find out more about your MP at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ and you should be able to contact them through http://www.writetothem.com/ Other prominent figures to contact include Ed Vaizey who holds responsibility for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Eric Pickles the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. An example of such a letter is this one written by Carolyn Carter to her local councillor in Somerset.

Write to local or national newspapers. They’re interested to discover what the public care about. If you’re organising a campaign, local media can be a good resource to attract more people in your community to your cause.

Spread the word to friends and family, and try to make more people in your community aware of any potential cuts or closures. You’ll be able to do much more as a group than you would alone.

As a group

The most important thing to do is to connect with other people: to find others who believe as you believe and who may already be working hard towards saving libraries in your area.

Take a look at the map of library closures to find what is planned for your area and then get in contact with local campaigns. Get in touch with the Public Libraries News website to report proposed cuts and closures in your area.

If there are no campaigns currently in your area and you would like to protect your local libraries, set up a group. Here are some useful resources available for people setting up campaign groups:

Library Campaign Handbook reproduced here with kind permission from the Library Campaign.

Basic Petitioning: advice on basic petitioning from Somerset.

Saving Your Library From Closure advice from Little Chalfont Community Library

Letter to schools from campaigners in Somerset.

Using deprivation indices – a guide by the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries. If you fear your authority has not paid proper regard to poverty and deprivation in making their library service plans, this can be an excellent way of illustrating or proving this point.

Submission from the Friends of Sonning Common Library to Oxfordshire County Council regarding the proposed closure of Sonning Common Library.

Documents from the Wirrall Library enquiry: Final Statement of Case to the Wirral Libraries Inquiry – ‘Save Eastham Library’ Campaign and Final Summary Proof of evidence to the Wirral Libraries Inquiry – ‘Save Eastham Library’ Campaign Proof of Evidence

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has a handy campaigning toolkit available to anyone.

Hold a read-in: more information on read-ins here and here.

Create posters and fliers for your local campaign and distribute them to places that the community will see: schools, churches, Post Offices, coffee shops, pubs and bars, bookshops. There is a guide on how to make a library protest sign from teen librarian, and a great set of library campaigning posters from Phil Bradley. We also have VftL posters available for download.

Set up a petition. It varies from council to council as to how many names on a petition one needs in order to force a debate. If you are planning to set up a petition, we suggest you contact your council first to see what their requirements are.

Using social media

Set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account & keep letting people know what you are doing via them and any information you have about library cuts in your area.

A good example of a local library campaign Twitter account is @foglibraries (Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries). The easiest way to do it is to try and tweet at sensible times when most people are awake… eg. late morning or late afternoon.

Pick up links related to your area by looking at newspapers online. Online newspapers often give the option to share stories via Twitter and Facebook via a button. This will save you time shortening the web address and coming up with a piece of text to go into your tweet/Facebook update.

Let us know if you have any new web presence eg. blog etc, are arranging events, meetings, petitions, so we can publicise them on the Public Libraries cuts map, and our Facebook account & Twitter account (@VftL_UK).

Set up a blog to let people in your area know what is going on. Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and Save Doncaster Libraries are good examples of what to post and how to keep everyone informed. You can also let people know you have new information added to your blog by posting links to Twitter & Facebook accounts automatically.

Set up an e-petition as well as a paper one. Both Gloucestershire & Doncaster have set up their own. Please see
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savedoncasterlibraries/ & http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=8 for ideas.

If you run an event, a protest or hold a meeting, film it and post it to Youtube. you can also let people know that the video is there by adding a link to your Facebook page, blog or tweet the link.

FOI requests

If you need more information about libraries in your area, a Freedom of Information request can get you real data and statistics. Local government should have records of how many people use your local library, how many loans your library has, and how many reservations are being made. Councils should respond to FOI requests within 20 working days so plan ahead and make sure you don’t put in the request too late for the data to be useful.

Make sure that you request stats on:

* Number of visits
* Number of loans
* Number of PC bookings
* Book fund
* Unplanned closures

Each of these should be requested for the past 5 years in order to determine trends in the data. Ensure that you specify that you require these stats from each library (otherwise they may just provide a grand total).

For more information on FOI requests, please see ‘A quick guide to FOI for voluntary organisations‘.


8 thoughts on “What can you do?

  1. Judith Cooke

    When I was a child, going to my local library was a part of life as natural and frequent as going to the corner shop. Eventually I became a librarian by profession and proud to be so:
    the library provides the first beginnings of reading and wonder for little babies, with board book and picture books, and story-telling sessions.
    The child goes to school- and comes to the library for homework help, books for fun, computer use or just for space to work and wonder. I know this from my experience as a school librarian. The library is an essential haven for children with no peace, or space, or resources, at home.
    Grown-ups of all ages love their libraries for leisure reading, information, social networking, again, a vital space to explore, find out, wonder at the world or just sit and relax.
    Each library, no matter how small, is precious, providing so much enjoyment and essential knowledge and skills, especially and vitally for those who cannot afford them at home. They are even more precious at this time.
    February 5 is my 62nd birthday and I am very proud that I share it with a campaigning day for my beloved libraries,the treasure-keepers of our cultural life.
    No other public service provides so much good for such little cost. Libraries should be left alone to do what they do best, protected by public servants who know their value.Cutting services, especially now, must not be an option.


  2. Susan B Chinn

    We need to join efforts on a national level to stop these council-by-council cuts to library services.

    Can we start an e-petition or a mass writein to David Cameron/Ed Vaisey? Or is it Eric Pickles who is the problem?

    Libraries are too important to us to be left to local political financial decisions. There needs to be a national acceptance of responsibility for them.

    If the people who walk can save the woodlands, the people who read must do the same for their libraries.

    Susan Chinn


  3. Bibliothèque Jarezienne

    As a librarian, though a french one, I keep a keen eye on what’s going on in the UK. Quite a lot of information was to be found on the “Save our libraries day”, but not so much on the effects of that campain !
    How did it work ? Did libraries actually get political results ?
    How come press releases on the subject are not listed ?
    Thanks for keeping us informed.


    1. Shouvik

      As far as I am aware, there was no immediate result to the “Save our Libraries Day”. For that to happen the Government would have to look at its spending plans for local government all over again. This they have not been prepared to do. However, local campaigns against library closures continue.

      I was wondering: what is the situation like in France? Are many libraries threatened with closure there, like in the UK?


  4. Rudi Affolter

    I have been using public libraries for as long as I can remember – I am now 54. I started out as a child with basically picture books, and went through school, college, university and just plain ordinary citizenship. Whether for pleasure, study or campaigning I have always used public libraries. Whether for borrowing or reference. They helped instil in me at a young age a lifelong love of books and reading – or just looking in books of fabulous photo’s of all kinds of things.
    Closing our libraries or failing to expand the stock is sheer cultural vandalism.
    I have also been a member of reading groups and circles for which libraries have been invaluable.
    When I have been after some of the most obscure material, stuff I have even been unable to find on the Internet, the staff of public libraries have frequently been of the greatest help to me.
    Not everyone wants to read a book more than once or to buy it to find out something on p453. Not all books of quotations carry everything you need to know.
    Not everyone wants a Kindle. Some people are unable to use them or even a Personal Computer. I know that many people with dyslexia find these very difficult to use.
    One of the greatest disaster’s in human history was the destruction of the great library of Alexandria. Do not let us repeat that today.
    All those concerned can campaign to save public libraries. If you are concerned, use your local public library for reference and borrowing. Take out the maximum number of books permitted. When the period of the loan has expired, borrow a fresh amount. Preferably read them; you will find it much more rewarding than sitting in front of the “goggle-box” or playing stupid computer games. Use the journals in your public library. Ask repeatedly – for ones they do not stock at present. Spend a few hours every week in your public library. Make it a family outing once a week.
    We CAN save our public libraries if we want to.
    Yours sincerely
    Rudi Affolter, BA Hons, MA


  5. Shouvik

    The local library (and school libraries also), have an important educational role. Children who visit the local library get used to being around, and using, books. Also, professionals and local businesses can access the reference sections of local libraries. For example, Bromley libraries have a good reference service, of encyclopedias, law books and other general materials.


  6. Gina J

    As a one-time Library worker and also someone who would not have been able to achieve graduate status without public and state libraries, I was more than overjoyed today to hear that Shaun Bailey no longer has the ear of the PM.

    Those of us with sufficient memory (probably the much maligned library workers whose stock-in-trade is memory) can recall the petulant attack on Zadie Smith in March 2011, when Mr Bailey on the ‘Today’ programme attacked her, libraries, public funding and state provision in a distasteful show of opportunism. Now his e-mails to the PM go unregarded and unanswered. Not that I’m a malicious person, but HA HA HA!


  7. EmmaT

    Thanks so much for this resource! We are just starting our journey in Southcote, Reading, where the council is considering merging facilitates. This blog has been very helpful.



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