Authors protest against library cuts

On 2nd February Theresa Breslin, writer, Carnegie medal winner and former librarian emailed to say she wanted to help protest against cuts to library services by organising a statement of dissent to hand in to the Scottish Parliament on Saturday 5th February. This came at a time when responses to 3 Parliamentary Questions about cuts to libraries, book funds and issues statistics had just been compiled. Responses to a consultation to axe school library posts in East Ayrshire had similarly recently left the desktop. The morning started with a phone call from ASCEL, an English body bringing together school and children’s librarians, asking for the Scottish context of proposed cuts in preparation for You and Yours on Radio 4 the following day. The plan for the day had been to think through a battle plan for a meeting with Scottish Labour MSPs about their ideas for libraries. Fortunately a paper had been prepared for CILIP some time ago laying out the Scottish context and this was updated and current information added and that was submitted. The call for people to support the petition went out on the lists and then the emails of support started flooding in. Theresa was inundated. A journalist from the Scotsman phoned in the middle of the chaos suggesting a feature on libraries and asking for information. By now information was being recycled from parliament to writers to the press.
I joined the writers on Saturday morning and they grew steadily to over 100 in number. Theresa with the aid of her Acme Thunderer (all teachers used to have one for playground duty) whistled the crowd into submission and charmed the police into compliance with her plan to be photographed with Julia Donaldson by a large number of photo-journalists, read out their protest and read to the assembled crowd. Parents, children, librarians, publishers, booksellers and library lovers turned up with their books to join in. Did it have an impact? Well, who can really say, but we do know Edinburgh reversed their decision to make school librarians term-time only posts and it led to radio coverage on Monday. Many of the final decisions have yet to be made and libraries will face the same again next year, but the public understand the value and impact of libraries and are not afraid to give us their support.
Rhona Arthur

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