I am writing on behalf of CILIP, the Chartered body for librarians and information professionals, to ask you to consider investing to revitalise our nation’s public libraries in your Spending Review statement next week.
I was heartened to read recently that you and your family are library users and supporters. You know for yourself the transformative impact that a great library and a professional librarian can have on people’s lives.
Recently, an elderly user entered one of our libraries on the afternoon of the day that her husband had sadly passed away. When approached by library staff, she said “I knew you would help me find a book to get me through my first night alone in years”.
In another case, a mobile librarian was reprimanded for being too slow on their rounds. On further investigation, it transpired that they were stopping along their route to help people – helping a mother find English-as-a-second-language reading resources for her child, helping older users get connected, helping young people find information about work and opportunities.
Every single day, our public libraries are home to a million stories like these. We need your help to do more.
Like all public services, libraries have seen very significant cuts in public funding since 2010. Some Councils have responded by investing in the development of their libraries on behalf of local people. Sadly, many have not been in a position to – particularly those in poorer areas where local taxation is not sufficient to maintain the service. The result is a two-tier library service, further reducing the life chances and social mobility of children in poorer parts of the country.
On the 15th October at the House of Lords, CILIP and The Big Issue will publish Public Libraries: The Case for Support – the first comprehensive body of evidence of the impact of public libraries in towns, cities and rural areas.
We will present evidence of the role libraries play as part of frontline health and social care, as a trusted digital infrastructure capable of supporting the transition to an online benefits system, in promoting the benefits of books and reading, extending access to formal and informal learning, providing opportunities for community participation, access to makerspaces, work- and meeting space and so much more.
Our libraries have responded to austerity with resilience and an unwavering focus on public service. We now desperately need fresh investment to help us prepare for our growing population. This is why our Case for Support calls on Treasury to ensure a fair funding settlement for Local Government and to provide new funding up to £50m per year over 5 years through DCMS to the Arts Council England to create a Public Library Improvement Fund, targeted to support libraries in those communities that risk being ‘left behind’.
Stabilising funding for Councils and introducing new development funding will allow us to revitalise and modernise our public library services and invest in the professional library workforce.
We would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and your team to discuss the opportunity to revitalise our public libraries, and the tremendous return which we can deliver on new investment. If you would like to find out more about the impact of libraries on society, the economy and our communities, please visit http://librariesdeliver.uk.
When you stand before the nation next week to set out your vision for renewed investment in our children and our communities, we hope you will recognise the power of libraries to transform their lives for the better.
Chief Executive, CILIP