The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has written an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron urging the government to re-consider budget cuts to library services.
The organisation argued that if cuts continue unchecked the "legacy" of this government will be a "network of hollowed-out services."
The letter was written by Nick Poole, c.e.o. of CILIP, in response to a leaked letter David Cameron sent to Councillor Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxford County Council, expressing his concern and disappointment at the council's proposals to “make significant cuts to frontline services – from elderly day centres, to libraries to museums.”
Poole’s letter explains that CILIP shares the Prime Minister’s concerns about cuts to frontline services and argues that the government needs to “recognise the importance of libraries", to "protect them as far as possible” and to “provide policy and financial support." He said: "The impact of reductions in centrally-distributed funds to local government has already been profound for the nation’s publicly-funded libraries and is likely to become critical after the budget statement on the 25th November."
Poole highlighted the numerous closures and job losses that the library network has experienced in recent years. “As many as 200 public libraries have closed since 2008 and many hundreds more are being forced to make short-term decisions to transition into community-led models, the sustainability of which remains an open question without appropriate planning or support," he said. "Equally, if not more damaging to the long-term public interest is the loss of skills and expertise resulting from the loss of qualified staff in publicly-funded libraries. Thousands of qualified librarians have either lost their jobs or find themselves at risk of redundancy – a permanent loss of professional skills that will do profound and lasting damage to Britain’s future as a globally-competitive Knowledge Economy.”
Referring to the libraries as "the beating heart of our communities, a foundation of Britain’s education, equality and social mobility and a central pillar of our economic future", Poole emphasised the government's statutory "duty of care" for the Public Library Network under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museum Act. He said: “If cuts to local libraries continue unchecked, it is all too possible that the legacy of your government may be a network of hollowed-out services, delivering only the most basic of library functions and failing to meet the reasonable expectations of the public. The loss of libraries and librarians is a profound disservice to the ideas and aspirations of generations to come.”
However, some members of the library community do not believe the letter goes far enough. Phil Bradley, librarian and internet consultant, refers to the letter as “weak” and “disappointing”.
Bradley said in a blog post: “If Cameron actually reads what Nick has written I'd be astonished. It's going to get flung across to Vaizey who will then ignore it, or continue with the usual platitudes. We need strong, vibrant powerful language for everyone else... We need to demonstrate that we care about the library service, the information professionals and our communities. We need to be strident in pointing out that better library services lead to better communities, and every penny we put into a library service pays us back time and time again."
He added: "We should not be ashamed or embarrassed of our passion. We should not stand politely at the door of Number 10 hoping to be noticed by one of the PM's aides. We need to be there hammering on the door, demanding to be let it. If we don't show the passion, if we don't shout louder and louder, if we don't make it clear to our communities that we are fighting for them then we deserve to lose everything we have."