January 26, 2011

UK library fans announce nationwide day of action to fight massive library closures


Kensal Rise library in London, one of the many set to close due to budget cuts

In Britain, library patrons are not taking threatened closures to some 450 libraries in stride: they’ve announced that the 5th of February will be a nationwide day of action that will include protests and over forty “read-ins” featuring major writers such as Philip Pullman, Alan Gibbons, Mary Hoffman, Malcolm Rose, and Carole Matthews.

And that’s not all. In a Guardian story, Benedicte Paige reports that

campaigners on the Isle of Wight – the hardest hit of any area, with nine out of 11 branch libraries due for closure – have echoed the eye-catching Stony Stratford protest which led members to empty library shelves by simultaneously taking out their full allowance of loans.

On Saturday, protesters emptied the crime fiction section of the island’s biggest library, the Lord Louis library in Newport.

Geoff Mason of the IOW Stop the Cuts Alliance explained that protesters had “targeted the biggest library on the island, replicating what would happen if all the other libraries were closed and everyone had to go there to get out their books. And we targeted the crime fiction section on the basis that closing our library is a cultural crime.” The crime shelves were emptied by 1.30pm, he continued. “Library staff were very supportive.”

According to Mason, other campaign groups are now considering similar action.

Author Gibbons, one of the protest leaders, called the protests “carnival of resistance to closures”, and says the government is “feeling the heat.” “The public love and celebrate their libraries,” he says. “Isn’t it time the government turned its back on its destructive and disproportionate closure programme and did the same?”

Meanwhile, another report from Paige indicates that some protesters are calling for a government inquiry into the closures.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives