Politicians and public figures

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries  are not affiliated to any political party, but are pleased to have received the following messages of support from politicians and public figures from across the county. You can view the responses of sitting Councillors and MPs to letters about the library cuts here.

Cllr Christine Headley – County Council candidate for the Rodborough division, and
Stroud District councillor for Rodborough

While, living in Rodborough, I use Stroud Library, the rest of the division – Amberley, Woodchester and Kings Stanley – is served by the mobile library. Half the stops are near to sheltered housing/pensioners’ bungalows so are ideal for the least mobile, who can ask someone to nip out for a book if they can’t get out themselves. Having volunteers bring library books out to individuals is a hopeless alternative.

Residents who want to go to a static library will be faced with difficulty. Nailsworth Library’s hours are expected to be cut substantially, which would be difficult to co-ordinate with the bus service that passes through Woodchester. Stonehouse Library is similarly threatened. Minchinhampton Library is to be offered to the local community, and would not then benefit
from the current internet arrangement, as it would no longer be part of the County Council system. This would reduce its usefulness to job seekers.

I believe that libraries are a vital resource for the community and am campaigning against these cuts.

I have been a keen library-user since early childhood, and recognise the value of librarians/information professionals. People with extensive knowledge of how to find things out can help you find much better answers than Google can.

Christine Headley

David Drew  – former MP for Stroud and local campaigner:

I’ve spent much of my life in libraries. At school, at university, researching in the community, and in the library of the House of Commons. Why should what I have taken for granted be denied to others? I urge everyone to join with the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries in demanding that we stop these mad and damaging cuts to the Library Service which is an attack upon the very fabric of our society, and I will do what I can to campaign against them.

David Drew

Matson and Robinswood Councillors:

We recognise and value the important work done in our community by Matson Library. We fully support the campaign to stop it from closing. Running a good library service is not a job that can be done by amateurs, without resources or even full access to books! We will work with our community to try and maintain a Library in Matson, for Matson.
We believe that the closure of the Library will damage our community and that the County Council’s platitudes are insincere. We support the County-wide campaign to save our libraries.

Cllrs. Kate Haigh, Mary Smith, Jan Lugg (Labour, Gloucester City Council) & Cllr. Steve McHale (Leader of Labour group, Gloucestershire County Council)

Alistair Cameron : Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman for Tewkesbury

Having looked on your website, I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed cuts to the library service in Gloucestershire.
Many people of all ages place great value on the County’s library service and it will be major step backward  to allow them to deteriorate. For school children, students and many people, libraries are a valuable resource which they can use for research and furthering their studies. For older people, they are an opportunity obtain reading material which they would not be able to access if they cannot get to the nearest major library. This will have a real effect on the quality of life of many people.
The loss or significant reduction of so many libraries will have a devastating impact on many of our communities in Gloucestershire. It also seems crazy that the County Council has only recently invested so much money on improving our library service including building new libraries and we are now going to throw much of this away.
I also believe consideration should be given to offering even more services from our excellent local libraries.

Alistair Cameron

Cllr. Phillip Booth – Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward, Green Party

I welcome the letter to the Stroud News and Journal urging a rethink of cuts to the library service (8.12.10). Cuts are inevitable with the Con Dem slashing of Council funding, but a 43% cut to libraries is disproportionate and hugely damaging to communities. Libraries represent only 1.45% of County Council budget, but are used by 250,000 people each month. They will be needed more than ever as other budgets are cut.

Eleven libraries, including Minch and the mobile services are to be closed. Many busy libraries, like Quedgeley despite being in an area of growth, face massive cuts. Seven other libraries including Nailsworth, Wotton and Stonehouse are to be cut to 3 hours staffing a week. If ‘partners’ are not found we will lose these as well. The professional skills of librarians cannot be replaced by volunteers. Many people will be significantly further away from a library. The County cannot argue that this will be a comprehensive library service that they must provide by law.

Cuts will impact on the quality of life and increase social isolation of many. Community activities and storytelling will be lost. The cuts will be doubly hard as day services to older people and people with learning disabilities along with bus services are also cut. Where can people go? Even the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey says, ”A strong library service, based around the needs of local people, can play a key role in our ambitions to build the Big Society by providing safe and inclusive spaces for people to read, learn and access a range of community services.”

We are moving towards an ‘e-society’ yet these cuts remove the ability of those least able to participate. Everything is internet-based: job hunting, homework, registering for housing and even the libraries consultation. Libraries play a vital role in improving access and assisting people to input highly sensitive information. Cuts will also impact on literacy. A child can lose 18 months reading skills in the six week period of the summer holidays if they don’t regularly read. How can parents afford books to improve reading skills and knowledge?

Both the library and the Corporate Strategy consultation are at best confusing. If the aim is to hear what people feel about their libraries and how we can make savings then they fail bitterly. These cuts will directly hit the most vulnerable members of our communities. A rethink is urgently needed if we are not to do permanent damage.

Phillip Booth

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10 Responses to Politicians and public figures

  1. Marlyn Leese says:

    Please save our libraries.

  2. Dave says:

    Very interesting comments by people who we could regard as out of touch with modern day living or those with an agenda because they either work in libraries or used to work in libraries.
    Books? When are you lot going to catch up with technology? I am surprised you are not talking about visiting stonemasons to get your latest tablets of stone! Books are old technology and even my 83 year old, partially sighted, mother uses a kindle. We do not need libraries because books have largely been superseded by electronic readers and in any case we have a postal system and could easily operate a library type service using Royal Mail but I doubt that even that is necessary.
    Reading a lot of your comments, I am surprised that you are not campaigning for the reinstatement of blacksmiths, black and white television and the reintroduction of gas lights in the street.
    The council’s finite resources would be far better spent on social services care for those in our society that really need it, such as the disabled and elderly as opposed outdated technology.
    I feel that you are all being extremely selfish and short sighted and I would rather see my council tax spent on essential services as opposed to a library service that is not essential, necessary or even that well supported.
    I can only imagine what type of selfish people are involved in trying to waste public money in this manner.

    • I feel it is you who is extremely selfish and shortsighted. Good for the people who can afford £80 a pop for a kindle and have the internet so they can access ebooks. 4/10 people in Glos do not have the internet. Libraries aren’t just about books. It is you who is out of touch. Libraries are hardly dated and are well used with 3 million visits in this county a year and more people visiting them nationally than attending premiership football matches. We know of hundreds of people who rely on libraries – School children with no study space or internet connection, the elderly, socially isolated, job seekers, and that is just the start of it. It is far from selfish to campaign for equality of access to information and a service which we pay for through council taxes. Your comments which attack the efforts of others only display profound ignorance.

    • Ian says:

      What an absurdly stupid comment. Where to start:

      “Books are old technology and even my 83 year old, partially sighted, mother uses a kindle.”

      Well, that’s great. I own a reader too funnily enough. Although I don’t own a Kindle, I own a Sony Reader. Guess what? A Sony Reader enables me to download ebooks from my local library for free. How many Kindle books do you get for free? Whilst I do own an e-reader, I would never be stupid enough to believe that everyone can afford one. To think they can suggests you are rather out of touch with the real world. Besides, I rather think my daughter would be missing out a little if I gave her an ereader (not a Kindle – I do not wish to support the creation of a monopoly – but that’s another story…).

      And I won’t even start on the fact there are countless books that aren’t available in ebook format…

      “…in any case we have a postal system and could easily operate a library type service using Royal Mail but I doubt that even that is necessary.”

      This cannot be a serious suggestion, surely? That would be a ridiculously expensive system. Certainly more expensive than the existing system.

      “The council’s finite resources would be far better spent on social services care for those in our society that really need it, such as the disabled and elderly as opposed outdated technology.”

      Don’t you think the same elderly and disabled who rely on their local library deserve their library service too? For me, I wouldn’t to see them punished at all (and there is no need for them to be) by taking away services from them. You seem to be quite happy to remove some of their services based on the fact that you don’t think they want it. A pretty disgraceful attitude which I’m sure they won’t thank you for.

      “I can only imagine what type of selfish people are involved in trying to waste public money in this manner.”

      Maybe the kind of selfish person who thinks everyone should have an ereader, regardless of cost? Or someone who thinks a ridiculously expensive postal system would be better as it would be cheaper for them? Or someone who is quite prepared to decide for the elderly and the disabled which services they deserve and which they do not. Maybe that’s the kind of selfish you are thinking of?

  3. Keith Hebden says:

    Dave,
    Qualified librarians, like teachers, are often graduates, are extremely able, and are perfectly capable of getting better paid work than the work they do in the public sector.

    Choosing to work in an undervalued and underfunded public sector because you value the contribution it makes to society isn’t selfish. It’s heroic.

    There are people out there who take jobs that they know to be unethical or pointless just because at some point they made the decision to follow the money instead of their values. These people should have used libraries more when they were younger.

    Think on, fella.

  4. Dave says:

    Oh dear Ian, I had gained an impression from your campaign as to what type of people you are and you have just confirmed it by the bucket load. Totally closed minds, aggressive towards anyone who dares to disagree with your opinions and you have even childishly seized on that fact that I have referred to an ereader as a kindle and had a rant about that. It is akin to someone referring to a vacuum cleaner as a Hoover and although hoover is a manufacturer it has become generally accepted within the English language. Why make such a fuss about that? It does give the impression that you are not capable of being balanced and become obsessive and extreme when challenged.

    You carry on your rant ridiculing the idea that a service could be provided by the postal service and suggesting that that would be ridiculously expensive. From that comment I believe I can safely assume that you have always either worked for the civil service or local authority as anyone who has been in the big wide world of business knows that the largest overheads are the cost of the building, it’s maintenance, services and staff wages. If a company can operate from a warehouse, and dispense with a show-piece office or shop it has an instant financial advantage over it’s competitors that most cannot beat.

    Funnily enough, Ian, knocked down the whole house of cards when he proudly boasts how he can download books from the library on to his Sony Reader. My point exactly! No more need for libraries and Ian has just explained why. Thanks Ian!

    You have then seized on my comment about preferring to see the money spent on care for the elderly etc telling me that they are the very people that use the library. I hate to point this out to you but the majority of people who need care have not the physical ability to get to a library. Thanks again for supporting my argument for general closure and demonstrating how a postal service and internet download service would be more effective in any case.

    Anyway, it is blindingly apparent that the people supporting this site have no intention of considering any alternative opinions or suggestions whatsoever.

    Perhaps Keith Hebden sums up your campaign when he says, “Qualified librarians, like teachers, are often graduates, are extremely able, and are perfectly capable of getting better paid work than the work they do in the public sector……………………………………………………………….
    Come on then, own up. This is really all about keeping people in jobs isn’t it?

    • Ian says:

      Dave. Oh dear.

      1) I am not involved in this campaign at all. I don’t even live in Gloucestershire.

      2) I was not making any comment on your reference to an ereader as a Kindle. I certainly wasn’t suggesting you were using the term a la Hoover/vacuum cleaners etc. I was commenting on Kindles in general. There are a lot of concerns about Kindles and what they mean for the delivery of books. Maybe have a poke around on the internet and see for yourself. Maybe start here: http://infoism.co.uk/blog/2011/10/why-i-have-not-got-a-kindle/

      3) No, doesn’t prove that e-readers have taken over. How many people have got one for a start? Don’t forget 8m people have *never* used the internet, and even more don’t even have access at home – around 30% of households (figures from ONS).

      4) Royal Mail delivery – One library I worked at issued 160,000 items per year. Taking delivery at around £1 per item that’s £160,000 per year, ONE WAY. Presumably if stock is being delivered via the mail you will pay for a return. Unless you expect old aged pensioners and the disabled to pay for the return of the item. So that’s £320,000 on delivery alone. You then need to factor in costs such as the purchase of stock and storage for the items that you are distributing. My old library – storage: £30,000 stock purchase: £52,000. You can reduce the cost of storage as you would probably not need as much space. So, say we cut that cost down to £10,000. So that’s approximately £400,000 per year. Cost of the library at present: £300,000. So, more expensive then.

      5) If you close the library, how do you provide access to the internet for the 8m in the country who do not have access (don’t say give them a computer, that is also more expensive: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=164623156918548).

      6) Many of those without the ability to get to the library benefit from housebound services managed by the local library.

      7) I worked in the private sector (retail management funnily enough) for 13 years. I have worked in the public sector for 6 years. So most of my working life has been in the private sector. There goes that theory 🙂

      Anyway, from what I can tell as an ‘outsider’ it seems clear to me that suggestions are very welcome here. It’s just suggestions that penalise large sections of the community (disabled, elderly, poor) probably aren’t that welcome.

      Now, a little less ranting please, and a little more thought about what you are saying. We’d all appreciate it 🙂

  5. Alan Wylie says:

    So Dave you’ve not only fallen for the old “austerity cuts are the answer and we have to decide what the priorities are” ploy but you also beleive that “books are outdated and libraries are defunkt ’cause everyones got an e-reader or buys their books from Amazon” bollocks! You obviously haven’t got a clue what you are talking about mate, maybe you should read more!

  6. >> Very interesting comments by people who we could regard as out of touch with modern day living or those with an agenda because they either work in libraries or used to work in libraries <> Books? When are you lot going to catch up with technology? I am surprised you are not talking about visiting stonemasons to get your latest tablets of stone! Books are old technology and even my 83 year old, partially sighted, mother uses a kindle <> we have a postal system and could easily operate a library type service using Royal Mail but I doubt that even that is necessary <> I feel that you are all being extremely selfish and short sighted and I would rather see my council tax spent on essential services as opposed to a library service that is not essential, necessary or even that well supported.<<

    You're right, some libraries aren't being supported. Bloody hell, some of them are having their hours cut, staff cut, others being closed. Great you bought that up and recognised it as a concern. Tell your local MP about it. If libraries were better supported they could do more great things to support everyone in their community, at some point in their lives.

    Yes, all parts of the local services need to cope with cuts. But libraries are being cut more aggressively without thinking about the real, tangible benefits they bring to communities. In an age of austerity, it's short-term thinking. We'll suffer in the long-term.

  7. carlin says:

    Dave ,I can point out that more cost involved will be enlarging everyone’s letterbox to allow books to be delivered( if you check most letter boxes will only fit smaller paper backs) and also in communities with no post office (of which in rural areas,my nearest post office is 2 miles away) of which there are a lot, the cost of transporting people with no transport,no bus route, the elderly, disabled etc to a post office to return the books not to mention the children this will penalise.
    I see how well thought out your alternatives are,just like GCC.
    I support this campaign because to deny access to libraries for the less privileged has been proved by the high court judgement to contravene the equality laws and the GCC decisions as bad governance.
    As for making presumptions about people , you obviously have no consideration at all for people who are not privileged as you.

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