Yes, fight to save your library, but don’t forget the real reason why it’s under threat.
Since the start of the 2010 Lib Dem Tory coalition government, libraries across the country have been faced with closure.
This Libraries Week I’m celebrating our local libraries in Cardiff Central.
Libraries are one of society’s great equalisers. They bring knowledge, for free, to anyone who seeks it.
In the days of miners’ welfares they gave young workers the tools to learn philosophy, history, science or anything else they wanted to alongside the trade they earned a living from.
During the difficult times, and the recessions, libraries are there to give people of all ages access to information and support to help train, learn and find their way in the world.
Where can you go to use the internet for free? Or to use a printer? The library. This is a facility that’s invaluable to thousands of people every day.
Added to this libraries are community hubs – with coffee mornings, story sessions for parents and children, newspapers, music and these days 3D printing and video games. They’re places where people come together, meet and share.
So why are we losing them?
It’s easy to look on and suggest that people just don’t value their libraries enough but I think we can all see that’s just not true.
Unfortunately austerity politics from UK Governments hell bent on destroying the state and the services we rely on have led to huge budget cuts handed down by the UK government, first by the Lib Dem Tory coalition and since 2015 by the Tories. Wales has lost £1 billion of funding in real terms, with Cardiff Council having to make up losses of around £200 million over the last ten years.
Despite this in Cardiff over the first six months of this year 1.2 million visits were made to Cardiff’s libraries, with 23% of the city’s population (about 80,000 people) borrowing books.
In Cardiff Central the fantastic community campaigners of Cyncoed stood up for Rhydypennau Library in the face of cuts that threatened it with closure. It’s become a thriving venue, hosting not just reading clubs but many other events and the campaign has brought the whole of the community together.
In Roath the library building which had been left to fall into disrepair by the previous Lib Dem council administration had to be closed, but Cardiff’s Labour Council have stepped in and made sure a library service is there for Adamsdown, in the Cardiff Royal Infirmary’s former chapel.
With councils like Cardiff under so much pressure to operate on ever-decreasing budgets it’s a desperate challenge to keep libraries and community spaces open but I’m proud that we’ve done so well in Cardiff and will continue to fight hard to keep our libraries.
I hold regular surgeries in libraries and library hubs in Cyncoed, Plasnewydd, Llanedeyrn and Cathays and they’re always bustling community hubs.
Long may they continue.