Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Save North Yorkshire libraries

North Yorkshire County is receiving some of the worst public library cuts of any county in the UK. The Council proposes to close 24 libraries out of the 42 currently open and take 10 mobile libraries off the road to be replaced by two “super-mobiles”. Under the council’s plans, North Yorkshire will lose 57% of its libraries. This is comparable in scale to the library cuts in Gloucestershire, Doncaster, Leeds, Dorset, and Somerset.

The libraries marked for closure are:

This video from John Harris at The Guardian highlights the situation in North Yorkshire.

North Yorkshire is the largest county in England in terms of land area. This makes its libraries all the more important: local libraries provide books and Internet access to people who can’t travel long distances across the county to one of the 18 “core libraries”. Helmsley Library, though marked for closure, was the council’s Library of the Year 2010 with a 30% increase in visitor numbers. North Yorkshire County Council has received only a 2.05% reduction in its spending power and not the 28% that the Council claim: the 28% figure refers to the estimated total budget cut across the UK’s councils given in George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review prior to actual council budget cuts being announced. Under the current plans, North Yorkshire residents lose 28% of their library budget and 57% of their local libraries.

If you have any interest in saving North Yorkshire’s and the UK’s public libraries, the time to act is now. Here are a few things you can do:

North Yorkshire residents can take part in the council’s online consultation on library services available at this link.

Email or write to your local councillor. A full list of North Yorkshire councillors is available here. Cllr. John Weighell of Bedale is Leader of the Council. Cllr. Chris Metcalfe of Tadcaster is the Executive Member for adult and library services.

The most important thing to do is to connect with other people: to find others who believe as you believe and who may already be working hard towards saving libraries in your area. Have a look at the Voices for the Library website for information and contact the team if you can help. Take a look at Public Libraries News for information on the libraries marked for closure in your community. This map provides a list of library closures across the UK:

View Public Library Closures in the UK in a larger map

Connect with other people in your area by joining a local campaign. There are several active campaigns for libraries in North Yorkshire (and if anyone knows of any more, please let me know):

Friends of Easingwold Library – Facebook page and blog

Save Eastfield Library – Facebook page

Bentham Library campaign – Blog 

Take part in Alan Gibbons’ day of co-ordinated protest at your local library. On Saturday 5th of February, people across the country will gather for read-ins at libraries across the UK. More information on read-ins here and here.

Maybe we were complacent over the last few years. Maybe we failed to appreciate our libraries properly. Maybe the councils failed to support them. Maybe libraries failed to keep up with commercial developments or user demands. None of those maybes matter right now. What matters is that our free, open, cultural, and uniquely British public library system is under threat and that this year we need to show our support by working to save it. I’ll be doing so in North Yorkshire: I hope you will be doing the same in your area.

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