Libraries across the country are hosting a range of events to encourage their communities to show "solidarity and support" in celebration of "our fantastic, vibrant libraries" to mark National Libraries Day tomorrow (Saturday 6th February).
Last year, 265m visits were made to public libraries and National Libraries Day intends to celebrate and promote this "vitally important public service", which is currently under threat of nation wide closures, organisers have said.
Merton’s libraries will offer the community a variety of library "taster sessions" tomorrow, with its venues in Morden, West Barnes, Mitcham and Raynes Park kicking off the day with children’s activities, including free balloons given if children take out five books or more. A pop-up library in Colliers Wood will also offer Spanish lessons for beginners while Pollards Hill Library will host a general knowledge quiz for adults. Kathy Settle, c.e.o of the leadership for Libraries Taskforce, will visit her local library in Wimbledon, which is holding IT Support sessions.
Merton council member for community and culture, Cllr Nick Draper said: “All our libraries around the borough are taking part in the National Libraries Day celebrations, which is one of the ways our brilliant staff and volunteers involve the people of Merton in their work and show them just how good our libraries are."
He added: “These activities are not just a one day thing, they’re part of what goes on week in week out; and I want everyone in Merton to enjoy them to the fullest. It’s tremendous to know that we’ve been singled out for a special visit by Kathy Settle and her team, and I’m sure she’ll enjoy her visit.”
The Society of Chief Librarians, in partnership with Brighton & Hove Libraries and BookTrust, is bringing Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell to Brighton for a live event on National Libraries Day. Riddell will be in conversation with The Guardian children’s book editor Julia Eccleshare at Jubilee Library.
Brixton’s Tate Library is participating in the event with a day of activities including a night of music, poetry and song to celebrate Brixton-born star David Bowie. During the day, the Friends of Brixton Library will be promoting well-being through workshops in gardening, creativity and healthy lifestyles. There will also be help on hand to teach visitors how to download e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines.
Writer and library campaigner, Alan Gibbons, will be joining Liverpool campaigners at Walton Library in Liverpool, explaining to the public "how their local library has been downgraded and how government cuts have meant the local council has retreated from the concept of a professionally run, comprehensive service." He will then head south to London to chair the lobby of parliament in support of the public library service on Tuesday and finally speak at the Lewisham libraries campaign public meeting that evening.
In Cornwall, theatres The Hall for Crownwall and Rogue Theatre will team up with libraries to help "inform people about the variety of services on offer at local libraries" as well as organising a hunt for three "golden bookmarks" which will give the lucky finder a year's free pass at the Hall for Cornwall.
Local authors and poets are also partnering with libraries to show support with Lucinda Blanchard and Mary Grand from the Isle of Wight signing copies of their debut novels at Cowes library and Liz Berry reading from her work at Bromsgrove Library. Meanwhile, Emma Purhouse and Michael Thomas will create personalized poems for visitors to take away at Dudley Library and “legendary" poet and author” Roger McGough will perform at Skelmersdale Library in Lancashire.
Libraries across Somerset will be running a simultaneous story time for children at 11am on National Libraries Day, where they will read aloud The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. The Friends of Frome Library will also hold a coffee morning and then Harry Potter readings and activities.
Many libraries are planning social media campaigns to mark the day, with Libraries NI - the public library service for Northern Ireland - encouraging visitors to get their photos taken at the local library as part of the “What does your library mean to you?” social media photograph campaign. Libraries in Harrogate, meamwhile, will encourage users to take a "fun photo" of themselves in front of a library shelf, or a photo replacing their face with the character on a book cover.
Chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, Nick Poole, said: “National Libraries Day is a celebration of our fantastic, vibrant libraries and of the people who make them what they are. Library staff are heroes every day of the year, and I hope people will visit their library on Saturday 6th February and show their solidarity and support”.
While tomorrow's National Libraries Day intends to celebrate services across the country, many are still under threat of closure as local council's review their budgets. Earlier this week, Swindon Council revealed plans to close 14 out of 15 of the borough's libraries, which has been described as a "new low" by Poole.
In response to the continued attack on libraries, National Libraries Day "will be the start of redoubled activity to speak out for Britain’s public library service", the Voices for the Library campaign group has told The Bookseller.
"‘It’s very well timed", said Tom Roper, a member of Voices for the Library, "because, as well as the activity on the Saturday, the following week sees the Speak Up for Libraries lobby of parliament on Tuesday 9th February. And CILIP’s My Library My Right campaign gathers more and more signatures, with nearly 13,000 on Thursday evening. We think politicians, locally and nationally, have no choice but to listen to campaigners who are clearly saying that they won’t accept more cuts, closures and the loss of professional jobs."
Friends of Carnegie Library are also intending to hold a rally at Carnegie Library in Herne Hill to oppose the council’s plans to transfer the service to the control of Greenwich Leisure Ltd. The rally also intends to support the staff and community plans to continue the staffed library service. Speakers will include local author Adam Mars-Jones and Tim O’Dell from UNISON.