Corbyn backs national libraries demonstration

Corbyn backs national libraries demonstration

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has pledged his “100% support” to a national libraries demonstration which aims to highlight the “clear and present danger” to Britain's public library service.

The demonstration, backed by unions such as Barnet UNISON, The PCS Cultural Union, Unite the Union and Campaign for the Book, will take place on 5th November and see campaigners come together to protest the "crisis" in the library service.

In the past decade, 343 libraries have closed, 8,000 paid and trained library workers have been lost and there has been a 93% increase in the use of volunteers in libraries.

The march will begin at the British Library in London and end outside the House of Commons in Westminster. 

Organisers have called on library campaigners around the country to take part.

They said: "Public libraries and museums remain the linchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, history, art, information and enjoyment. Libraries are, or should be, trusted public spaces for everyone. They play a crucial role in improving literacy, in combating the digital divide and in widening democratic involvement.

“This is a crisis and not an opportunity. Users, staff, campaigners and unions need to unite and fight before it’s too late. [We are] calling for a national demonstration to highlight the 'clear and present danger' to our national library service."

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has backed the demonstration, accusing the Conservative Party of using austerity to justify cuts to local councils which have led to the library closures. He pledged that a Labour government would ‘in-source’ public and local council services and increase access to leisure, arts and sports across the country. 

"Libraries, museums and galleries are public assets which help to celebrate and promote the rich cultural diversity of our communities," Corbyn said. "I want to thank the organisers of this event for bringing together this social movement to resist the attacks by this Tory government and for promoting these precious public services”.

John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, added that he would be joining the march on the 5th November. “The Tories have waged a six-year war on our libraries, museums and our galleries," he said. "These valuable public services which reflect, support and celebrate the rich diversity of our communities should be nourished, not destroyed.”

Owen Smith, meanwhile, Corbyn's challenger for Labour leadership, has also voiced his support for the library service, pledging to “work with councils to encourage greater collaboration and cooperation between the 151 library authorities in England, and give councils longer term funding settlements so that councils can better plan ahead and meet local needs”, if he is appointed Labour leader, in a letter to librarian Leon Bolton.

Campaign for the Book organiser and author Alan Gibbons told The Bookseller that a national response to the threatened public library service was “long overdue” and with the support of both Corbyn and Smith, “I personally feel we can now have at least one of the major parties unconditional support," he said.

Mark Taylor, director of external relations for librarians’ body CILIP, said the organisation supported the demonstration’s aims to highlight the essential role public libraries play.

Tomorrow (20th August) will see campaigners take to the streets of Lewisham to protest the planned removal of staff from four libraries in the borough.