Saving libraries from cuts is crucial, say UK readers in survey

Online survey reveals public opinion is strongly in favour of protecting the library service, as protests take place against closures in London

Nine in ten people feel it is “crucial” that their local library is protected from cuts, according to a survey of almost 30,000 participants by Money Saving Expert.

The website received 29,856 votes after asking its users to choose the sentiment which most closely matched their perspective on libraries, from “I never visit the library and don’t think it’s the best use of public money” and “There’s no library anywhere near me but I’m not bothered by that” to “I often visit the library, it’s crucial that it’s protected” and “I never visit the library but think it’s crucial it’s protected for others”.

In total, 89% of respondents believe it is “crucial” that libraries are protected, whether or not they visit them regularly themselves. Money Saving Expert split its respondents into age groups, with 92% of those who are 65 and older believing it is crucial to protect a library, 89% of 35-49 year-olds, 89% of 50-64 year olds, 85% of 25-34 year olds and 7s% of under 25 year olds.

Just 6% said “I never visit the library and don’t think it’s the best use of public money”, with under-25s the most likely (17%) to tick this box.

At the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Cilip), which is running the My Library By Right campaign in an attempt to hold the government to account over library closures, chief executive Nick Poole said the results “show the overwhelming public support for libraries from people of all ages”.

“Even people who aren’t regular library users still feel they are a vital part of their community,” says Poole. “The poll highlights the strength of support for quality library services, which is why we are campaigning for My Library By Right. We urge national and local government to work with us to deliver a joined-up policy, to stop the tide of short-term decisions and make sure communities have access to great library services in the future.”

The news comes as protestors in Lambeth prepare to lobby the council’s AGM on 13 April over its closure of Carnegie and Minet libraries in south London. The council plans to reopen the libraries next year as “healthy living” centres with unstaffed bookshelves, a move which has been condemned by locals, who ended a 10-day sit-in at Carnegie library on Saturday. Authors including Stella Duffy, Toby Litt, Nick Hornby and Ali Smith have also supported the Lambeth protestors. The government has since said that it will investigate Lambeth’s plans.

According to figures from the BBC, almost 350 libraries have closed in Britain in the last six years, with 174 transferred to community groups and volunteers, and 50 handed over to external organisations.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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