Voices of Gloucestershire

Below are some of the many messages we have been receiving  from  library users and staff telling us why libraries are important to them and their community.

Cerys and Abbie are both 11 years old, and visit Hesters Way Library regularly. They shared a statement they have written for the County Council, and told us what this library means to them.

I am 10 and love to read, so I am very upset about the library cuts. I use the mobile library lots as my mum and dad work so we don’t have time to visit the local library.
On my small close where I live in Blockley (the nearest library is 4 miles away) there are 18 or more children who always go to the library bus and I see a lot of adults there too.
I enjoy walking to the library bus with my younger brother and sisters , I spend ages choosing many books, some for pleasure and some for school work.
I hope this saves the library cuts.

Mily Newton, age 10

I’ve been a mum who has used the library with a toddler.  I remember those days as a new mum when I was at a bit of a loose end, and how fantastic it was knowing I could just pop into my local library to spend an hour or so reading and looking at lovely picture books with my daughter (as a teenager, she’s now an avid reader, which I’m sure came out of those happy hours spent at the library).  We still use the library service, and I was so pleased recently when I discovered that I could order books through the inter-library lending service which meant I could get hold of an obscure Jacques Tati biography I though I’d have to buy for about £25.    We also make regular use of the CD and DVD lending service now that the finances are a bit tight.

I’m sure if you haven’t been a lonely mother, unemployed or retired – someone who just wants to get out of the house and connect with the wider world, then it’s harder to understand the emotional investment you can have in a library.  If you haven’t had kids who have benefitted from trips to the library to get books that have stimulated their imaginations or helped with homework projects,  you might not see what all the fuss is about.  But I think libraries are a cheap and wonderful public resource that serve so many functions within their communities, and we really shouldn’t mess with them like this.

Susan Caudron

Chloë of the Midnight Storytellers is a regular user of Bourton-on-the-Water Library, and told us why libraries are important to her. Chloë is also the Northleach Town Crier, and has written about our campaign, and the impact the County Council’s plans will have on library users in Bourton-on-the-Water here.

Marion Pagan is 86, and regularly uses Hesters Ways Library with the help of her daughter-in-law Jane. Marion spoke to us about what the library means to her, and the impact a reduced service would have.

As a library user for over seven decades, visiting general and specialist libraries alike, I cannot envisage life in Gloucestershire without a full set of properly staffed and stocked libraries. Yes, there have to be cuts, but not on this wholly disproportionate scale of 43% of the public libraries budget.

I am forced to wonder whether the county council understands what librarians do all day if they think that volunteers can take charge. Librarians, whether in public or specialist libraries, need a huge range of skills for which they have undergone substantial training. Their business is to guide enquirers to all kinds of sources, by no means just the internet.  To be effective at that they need knowledge built up over years of experience. It is completely unfeasible to think volunteers can even scratch that surface.

‘Schools have libraries of their own’, we are told. Go into a public library and observe how many children are there eagerly seeking out knowledge they cannot find at school.

Bear in mind too that only something like one-third of the population can use the internet at all, let alone efficiently. County councillors please search your consciences amd think again. We need a library culture if we are to remain a civilised and knowledgeable country.

Cherry Lavell, Cheltenham

Libraries tell children that books are for everyone, not just for those who can afford to buy. They tell them that reading is fun, not just a skill to be learned in bureaucratically prescribed ‘literacy hours’.

I would not be a writer, and probably not much of a reader, if not for the public library system.

John Dougherty, Stroud

As an Open University mature student I find the local library is an invaluable source of information. Whilst the university gives me electronic access to journals through the national JISC electronic library service, and other sources, I can’t borrow any of the books referred to in the course material as the remote university library (in Milton Keynes) has no facilities for doing student loans.

Gloucestershire County Council seems to think it can provide users with free ebook downloads in the future (despite clear statements to the contrary by the Publishers Association). Let me tell you about my experiences with electronic books. During November I wanted to study the Greek play Antigone by Sophlocles in response to a course module. I looked on the electronic library catalogue on Friday, and found a copy in the library which I ordered. On Saturday my son was demonstrating his new Kindle ebook to me (obtained at a discounted rate that applies to university students!). I asked him about getting hold of a copy of the play. Lo and behold he downloaded a free copy for me to read. Now this play, like Shakespeare’s, is written in rhyme, as a poem. So imaging my surprise when, on the Kindle, I found the lines of the poem run on, with only a capital letter to indicate where line breaks should occur. Worse was to come. Where the publisher had added side notes to the text these were shown inline, between two adjacent lines of the poem and without spaces either side! I read the play, over a couple of days, once I managed to work out how to increase the type size to one that was readable by an old fogey rather than a teenager. On the Tuesday I got the book I had requested from the library. Not only were there line breaks in the poem, it was a much better translation, the one chosen by the BBC when they last broadcast the plays. There was also a brilliant introduction which explained not only the background of the play but also some information about what the audience would have understood by some of the action (i.e. which door led to the city and which to the country). This material substantially extended what I learnt about the play from my university course.  It was available because someone, presumably at the library, had taken the effort to work out which was the best version of the play to stock, rather than the cheapest. That’s what I need from my local library.

Martin Bryan, Churchdown

Those councillors cutting libraries and library services are invited to consider what the cost of ignorance is. Alan Bennett as a boy relied on the local public library, and libraries are vital community resource hubs.

Martin Large, Glos

I strongly oppose the closing our local libraries. They are a hub of the community and part of the infrastructure of the English way of life.  I believe it is very shortsighted to think that taking away these resources that money will be saved.   The damage will be considerable and in the long run the resulting vacuum will actually cost the state more money. In a world that is in need of inspiration and human community please let the council see reason and keep investing in such a positive and uplifting aspect of life.
We should force them to change their decision and invest our money in something that we really want to keep.

Elaine Heller

2 Responses to Voices of Gloucestershire

  1. Helen Knuckle says:

    There are many arguments against the library cuts proposed for Gloucestershire. I am drawing attention to some general ones, but also some specific to our local Library in Nailsworth, which I strongly believe merits upgrading from a “Link” to an “Express” service, in the proposed scheme, at the very least. I appreciate that there have to be cuts, but feel that 43% of the public libraries budget, the equivalent of apparently only 1% of the total Council outlay, is on a disproportionate scale.
    Access for all to free public libraries is a sign of a civilized and democratic society. In this exploding “Information Age” the role of the experienced and qualified Librarian is actually required increasingly as a guide to navigating the expanding wealth of resources and media formats. County councillors must be ignorant of what librarians and library assistants actually do, if they think that volunteers can fill their role. Staffing a library is far more than simply a case of checking books in and out and re-shelving them. Librarianship is a graduate, chartered profession, with all the specialist expertise that implies. The council is not proposing replacing other professional services with unqualified volunteers – e.g. to replace accountants in the Finance Department, teachers in our schools, or planners in our Planning department? So, why should libraries be so undervalued? Library staff employ a wide range of skills with intelligence and sensitivity. To be effective they need knowledge built up over years of training and experience. It is quite unreasonable to think volunteers can begin to fill this role in all but the most augmentary way. In Horsley our relatively thriving Village Shop is staffed by volunteers, but it has still proved impossible to find enough constant long term volunteers to staff it full time, and a paid manager has become a necessity to ensure continuity of service. Therefore, how could a specialist service such as a library expect to be run satisfactorily by volunteers?
    The Council is proposing to protect services to sections of the local community with particular needs, such as children, the elderly, and housebound people. Nailsworth Library offers many special services to these people locally, which will cease. As the government cuts bite harder, these services will be needed more, not less. Inhabitants of Horsley can easily visit the Library in Nailsworth, but would be unable to reach the proposed “Main” Libraries in Stroud or Dursley. Children and the elderly or those with disabilities can catch a bus into Nailsworth, where there is level access and a zebra crossing from the bus station to the library. In Stroud there is a very busy road and a steep hill between the bus stops and the library in Lansdown. Under other cuts who can say if these buses will still be available? There is no public transport to Dursley, or toTetbury either, where an “Express” library is proposed. These three libraries are all at least 6 miles from Horsley. The more vulnerable members of our society are unlikely to find the online library service appropriate, the telephone service is already chronically understaffed, and our Village Agent is already working many more than her paid 15 hours a week, without added responsibilities, such as a drop-off library service to the housebound. I believe Nailsworth is one of the most heavily used branch libraries in the county, much more so than some of the proposed “Express Libraries”, so why should we endure a massively reduced service?
    I am immensely grateful to the staff at Nailsworth Library for providing a welcoming and helpful initial experience of libraries to my young son, and I feel that our lives, and those of local families with younger children, will be significantly impoverished if Gloucestershire County Council feels it is justified in reducing this much appreciated branch to the proposed level of a mere “Link” library.
    Helen Knuckle.

    My son Daniel Knuckle, aged 10, has made this list of his reasons for wanting to keep Nailsworth Library open as much as possible:
    The staff are friendly and they know me and tell me what books I might be interested in.
    I feel safe there if I go on my own.
    The reading challenges and summer activities are always fun.
    It’s a good place to spend time in the school holidays.
    I always bump into people I know there.
    The DVD collection is really good.
    Stroud library is too far away, so we would hardly ever go there. I’ve never been to Dursley or Tetbury Library. Apart from the DVDs, none of the list above would be relevant to them.
    We are already disappointed when Nailsworth Library is closed on Thursdays or Tuesday afternoons, it should be open more time, not less.

  2. Carol Beard says:

    I am the manager of a pre-school in the Forest of Dean. Our children really enjoy visits from the mobile library van and it is so sad that this service will be withdrawn. The children were always keen to choose books to borrow and get involved with the story that was read to them.
    Carol

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