Over the course of this campaign, Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries supporters have received correspondence from, and had many conversations with people who are deeply concerned at the social impact of the County Council’s planned 43% cuts to our library service.
County Council leader Mark Hawthorne says that library cuts are necessary in order to protect ‘life enhancing services’. But what he seems to fail to understand is that, for many people – including some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, libraries are just that!
We have heard countless times how for some elderly and disabled people, a visit to the library or a visit from the library van is all that stands between them and complete social isolation; we have received emails from mental health professionals who are worried about the impact the reduction of the ‘Books on Prescription’ service will have on people coping with anxiety and depression; we have spoken to carers who say that the library is a ‘lifeline’ for the people they support, and to children from lower-income families who rely completely on the library service to access the computers and books they need to achieve at school.
Two letters we have received are reproduced below.
Alistair Fisher lives near Hesters Way. He cares for his wife Jean, as well as helping out with the library’s book club for house bound people:
This stupid idea of cutting mobile libraries is silly. These people enjoy a book or a talking-book, and also enjoy the chance to get out and make friends in the library clubs.
I have been a carer for 32 years, and am still waiting for help to arrive for my frail wife. It is terrible the way these people are being treated. The library service has given Jean a new lease of life – the chance to find different authors, and great help from the Hesters Way librarians, where nothing seems too much trouble for them.
I will plod on to the bitter end to fight this stupid closure of libraries.
Daniel Saturley is a teacher at a primary school in the Wye Valley:
As a primary school teacher, I am concerned about the future of libraries. I am particularly worried about the services offered to all young people, who are expected to make continued progress academically, year after year in order to meet educational demands placed upon teachers. I worry that if library cuts cause the closure of services, the children we teach will suffer both socially and academically.
The whole experience of a library and actually going into one is something very special in itself. The notion that you can find something that interests you as an individual gives you responsibility and allows you to make your own decisions. This skill is something that is essential to all success – the ability to choose something and follow your own intuition. I still remember, some 20 years ago now, my first school visit to the local library. I loved it – the possibilities and potential to learn about anything. This definitely motivated me to read and want to learn because I was able to read what I wanted. The visit to the library essentially took me away from the regular books within my class and gave me a thirst for reading. This is something that I see now within the children I teach.
I am worried that if people sit back and do not fight for these services they will be reduced, which makes me sad because everyone would be missing out on so much. The library service offers an invaluable selection of resources, which if used correctly allow children to prosper in school and enjoy the subjects they are taught and the books they read. How can we as teachers be expected to raise standards in children if the standard of resources on offer to them is significantly reduced?