‘Keep Our Libraries Open’

Camden librarians on Saturday’s march
Camden librarians on Saturday’s march

OVER 5,000 library campaigners, trade unionists, their families and supporters marched against cuts and closures from the British Library through central London to Trafalgar Square last Saturday. Children’s laureate Chris Riddell and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen were among those assembling at the British Library.

Banners on the march included the PCS national banner, National Museum of Wales PCS, Barnet Unison, SOAS Unison, London Metropolitan Unison and UCU banners, Tower Hamlets Unison, Equity and NUJ Book Branch. Library campaign banners included those from Carnegie Library, Warrington, Coventry and Swindon.

Being Guy Fawkes night, the lead banner and placards said ‘Don’t make a bonfire out of our culture’. There was a lively delegation from the French CGT union. News Line spoke to a number of participants, including CGT National Secretary Douniazed Zaouche.

She said: ‘We are here because we have the same fight and we want to show our support to this demonstration. We think the time has come to fight hand in hand with all the unions and civil society against austerity. This neo-liberalism is killing our society.

‘We need to stand up and call on all governments to attend our needs. Our culture and our rights are not for sale. We cannot accept privatisation, low wages and bad working conditions. It’s all about dignity, respect and the foundations of democracy. If this (UK) government doesn’t hear what is going on a big strike has to come. As we won’t give up. We are determined to win – enough is enough!’

NATIONAL Museum of Wales PCS branch secretary Peter Hill said: ‘We’re here to support the campaign to protect libraries and museums. We had a nine-week all-out strike earlier in the year to prevent a 15%-20% pay cut for our members. We got a much improved deal that was accepted by our members. Now we want to build on that to protect funding for museums and libraries as well. That’s why we’re here today.’

Telford Unison member Leslie Cotton told News Line: ‘We’re against all the cut-backs. In Telford, we are waiting to find out what libraries face cuts or closure. I’d support a general strike, we have to stand united.’

Chris Burrow, Coventry Unison education convenor, said: ‘We currently have fifteen libraries. There’s another consultation going on for further cuts. The worst case scenario is we could only have five libraries left.’

Emma Halford from Bishop’s Stortford said: ‘I’m a school librarian and I see increasing numbers of children starting secondary school having had no experience of libraries. This impacts on their reading abilities, their social skills, their communities and their information skills.

‘Children are just unaware they have a right to a comprehensive library service. They are being excluded from services that generations ahead of them have enjoyed and prospered from. Our services need to be protected. The government should be challenging local authorities and reminding them of their obligations under the 1964 Public Libraries Act.’

Alan Wylie, Islington Unison, told News Line: ‘I helped to organise this march to send a strong message to the government that we are going to fight back against cuts to libraries, museums and galleries. We’ve lost 8,000 staff and 600 libraries have been closed or been given to outsiders in the past six years.’

Warrington library campaigner Fiona Barry said: ‘Everybody need access to books, they need meeting places. Libraries do that. Not everybody has the internet, not everybody has the money to buy books. We need to stand up for our libraries. Warrington Council are going to close the five biggest libraries.’