Support Libraries, support public services

Libraries are a public service and as such are very much part of the political arena. Politicians have found to their chagrin that members of the public are proactive in defending libraries and campaigning to prevent closures. From Moray in Scotland, Devon in South West England, and Rhydyfelin in Wales, the message is the same, ‘hands off our libraries’. In both rural and urban areas people fight passionately to save a service they value even when local councilors and national politicians don’t. Sometimes the campaigns are able to influence the outcome initially or, as in Lincolnshire and Sheffield, sometimes not. However, the fight goes on.

But the damage being done to libraries is only part of the undermining of the whole public sector by mainstream parties yoked to an ideology of unrestricted markets and neoliberal values. As such, the fight for libraries should be seen as part of a wider struggle to protect public services. As the We Own it site states ‘public services for people not profit’.

As mainstream politics fracture under the weight of public disillusionment many have turned away from the hegemony of extreme centre politics to smaller parties such as the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru. Equally new pressure groups articulate a different vision of political engagement and offer a campaigning voice on behalf of a public distrustful of the link between politicians and big business.

Individuals concerned with upholding the public service ethos and preventing the commercialisation of valuable public services such as the NHS are finding different ways, mostly through social media and the internet, to debate, challenge, and engage. Sometimes they take more direct action such as the Occupy movement. The one thing they all have in common is seeking a fairer, more equitable, society than the one we have now. This is the new politics of the 21st Century. Whether it will have lasting impact remains to be seen.

Public services are under attack as never before and it’s up to us as users and public sector workers to defend them. So support libraries, support public services, support the common good.


2 thoughts on “Support Libraries, support public services”

  1. There may be years of work ahead to restore services that are so horribly under assault. There is a long-term commitment that must be made. It’s crucial that every success, however small, be heralded and that every setback be seen as an invitation to fight back.

    But campaigners in Lincolnshire and Sheffield are today STILL engaged in battling hard to keep their library services intact. So it is premature to conclude from your: “or, as in Lincolnshire and Sheffield, sometimes not” that these efforts might be over or have been in vain. Please note, these campaigners have not retired from the arena, nor have they conceded defeat in the face of considerable odds.

    Even when we who are currently engaged in this struggle retire or kick the bucket, the next generation will have to follow on and carry the torch for a decent, democractic society – one in which they will have the right to information, education, literacy and reading for pleasure via properly staffed, accessible public libraries. One day there may be more enlightened politicians, or even ministers who acknowledge their responsibilities, and these will look back on this era with disgust and incredulity.

    So, no defeatist talk, now from us…. No slacking …. We are digging in for the duration.


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