Dear Prime Minister,
I felt compelled to write to you following your recent comments about public libraries, as it is a matter of grave concern that you seem to have little idea of what services these institutions actually provide.
In the average public library, members of the public can expect to encounter:
• Computers providing access to the internet (and librarians who train people in how to use them to access the best possible resources);
• Subscriptions to comprehensive online reference resources, including high-quality works such as the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of National Biography;
• Local and family history material;
• Books aimed at improving adult literacy;
• Careers advice – including books (and other resources) to assist with writing a good CV, and improving performance at job interviews;
• Non-fiction on a huge range of topics – including manuals on DIY, mechanics, health and sport;
• A range of non-printed material such as e-books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks on CD and cassette;
• Adult and children’s fiction, ranging from the latest best-sellers to the classics, everything in between;
• Large-print fiction for the partially-sighted;
• Many libraries also provide material in foreign languages, targeted to the needs of the communities they serve.
Please understand that this is a very brief list, and omits many of the products and services libraries around this country can and do offer. I am not a public librarian and have therefore focussed on aspects of the service which I have observed and found valuable myself. I would also draw your attention to the Voices for the Library website which provides a forum for library users to express their opinions of public libraries in this country, and which also summarises the key provisions of the library service: http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/?page_id=170
Thank you for taking the time to read this message, and I hope you are able to appreciate the value which libraries provide to the communities they serve. Public libraries are currently under huge threat in this country, and I appeal to you to add your support to the campaign for any necessary cuts to be administered in such a way as to preserve libraries’ integrity and value, and to ensure that librarians can continue to deliver the range of high-quality services which the public have every right to expect, many of which are simply not available from any other source.
This is not just a random letter which I’ve posted here in the hope that David Cameron might follow my blog, I have put it in the post addressed to Number 10. Currently it feels a bit like writing to Santa, but I figured that it was time to actually do something, and that this was at least a start. I was pleased to see a few people on Twitter and some of the LIS-Profession list members mentioning that they’d also written/emailed on the same topic today, so let’s hope we reach a sufficiently critical mass – it would be amazing if all our efforts galvanised him into action on our behalf. I also included @edvaizey and @Jeremy_Hunt in a tweet linking to this post, so maybe they’ll come here and read it too… I’m not sure that this is the best letter I’ve ever written, but I am sure it’s better than not writing at all, and although I do feel oddly scared by it I’m also pleased that in this small way I’m no longer part of the “somebody should…” brigade. If you haven’t already done so, please consider adding your voice too – all the contact details are available at http://www.number10.gov.uk/footer/contact-us.
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