Report on HAG Library InfoNightTagged as: anarchism cuts library workers_struggles
Neighbourhoods: hackney hag
Published by group: Hackney Anarchist Group
Hackney libraries are an essential community resource which are under threat from cuts in public services. Staff face redundancies and down-grading and the many services which libraries provide, like community events are threatened. Hackney Anarchist Group held a Libraries InfoNight at Well Furnished on July 21st to draw attention to the role of libraries in social cohesion and education to hear from campaigns to save libraries and protect jobs around London. Read more ...
What emerged from the night were some very inspiring stories of solidarity. We learned how ESOL workers at Hackney Community College had won the fight against redundancies and the wholesale closure of courses and had, at the same time, recognised their own strength as a community and ability to determine their own futures. Similarly, we were the first to hear the news that Hackney council had acceded to the demands of library workers and that, voluntary redundancies aside, had backed down on plans to downgrade existing workers and slash services. This was due, in no small part, to the collectively formulating alternatives to the councils slash-and-burn polices and making the case for the value of the services that libraries provide.
The extraordinary story of the Feminist Library’s 35 year survival as a voluntary organisation was also presented as a caution against the encroaching ‘big society’ and problems faced by volunteers battling to provide a service with extremely limited resources. We also heard how prison libraries, that receive their funding from council budgets, are struggling protect their resources and their role in enabling prisoners, many of whom have learning difficulties, to take steps into education.
Many of the steps proposed by local councils to reduce spending on libraries have already been implemented in universities where the value of library services should not be in question. Many university libraries are now open 24 hours but the extended opening hours and cuts to university budgets have meant a reduction in library staff in favour of self service electronic borrowing and the employment of security guards to police the space during the night. The result, as we heard from an employee of Queen Mary University of London library, has been an increase in mis-shelved and missing books with staff powerless to provide an adequate service. Further restructuring at Queen Mary has been mooted at a time when academics, who’s support is vital in enabling library staff to argue for maintaining essential services, areaway from the campus.
We also heard from Kim, a library user of Friern Barnet library where a library users’ group have mounted successful events to the many services that libraries provide apart from lending books and providing a space for reading and the hardships that the loss of library services would entail. 150 people crammed into a space designed for 25 to hold a read-in and demonstrate to council management that library users in Barnet are in full support of staff demands.
Libraries have, traditionally, existed as much more than a place to read and borrow books. Despite that the internet has replaced many of the functions previously provided by libraries, the fact remains that many in the community do not have access to cheap broadband or the necessary skills to navigate the web. Libraries are one the few remaining social spaces that are free to use and are also sources of both information and knowledge. Local libraries are the archives of our everyday lives, a resource for self education and a meeting place for the community. The HAG Libraries InfoNIght was an essential part of our campaign to support library workers and connect communities struggling to preserve valuable public services against the encroachments of the free market.
Contact email: email@example.com