November 16, 2018
Government’s “unbothered” response to libraries petition
by Alyssa Monera
After a whopping 30,000 signatures, the United Kingdom finally responded to this petition to protect public library funds: “Nah, that’s not our job.”
To recap: The petition demanded that the government ringfence library funding–meaning, that they protect library funds from being spent someplace else. It was launched by library supporter Frances Bilbin on October 8th and was shared massively among library lovers on Twitter, including authors like J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman, and Malorie Blackman.
The petition quickly surpassed the required 10,000 signatures needed to get a response from the government, which leads us to November 8th, the day of their official response.
“The government’s position is that local government funding should be non-ringfenced,” it said. “This has been a long-established government principle based on the premise that giving greater funding flexibility to local authorities supports them to make spending decisions based on their local needs and priorities. Ultimately, decisions about resource prioritisation for libraries sit with local authorities.”
In other words, parliament is passing the responsibility off to local government. But library supporters are smart enough to smell the bullshit.
“This is standard practice for the current hands-off administration who have been keen to pass on all responsibility to local councils, while at the same time greatly cutting the budget of the same councils,” librarian Ian Anstice told The Guardian. “Their ‘What, me, guv?’ act of innocence was believed by few when they first tried it in 2010 and is believed by no one, even one suspects themselves, now.”
On the bright side, this is only the beginning. Once the petition gets 100,000 signatures, the matter will be passed into parliament for debate, where it already has some vocal supporters.
“The government’s response to the libraries funding petition is hugely disappointing, they are not listening to what libraries need,” urges MP Gill Furniss on Twitter. “Please sign the petition to get this debated in parliament!”
If you are a UK resident or citizen, you can sign the petition here.
Alyssa Monera is an intern at Melville House.