Libraries Under Siege: What Cuts Have Meant for Public Libaries in the UK

Libraries in the UK have long been under threat, but during the last 5 years of Conservative cuts, the pressure on libraries has increased so much that several hundreds have been closed and a quarter of staff have been laid off. Protests range far and wide – from famous writers and library users to members of local communities. In Lambeth, things came to a head recently. Library users simply refused to leave, and are now occupying the Carnegie Library which was supposed to close. They are being supported by the local community with donations of food, wine, and bedding. Students revising for their GCSEs and A-levels are among the occupants. Although the local council keeps protesting the library would re-open in 2017 as a “living centre”, occupants have remained unconvinced. “Earlier a council spokesman said the Carnegie ‘would reopen to the public, for longer hours, in early 2017 and will have a neighbourhood library service, health and fitness facilities and space for community groups to use’.” (link to source: BBC news) An odd concept of a library indeed…

For more recent news on the various Save Our Libraries Campaigns, visit the website:

One model is particularly worth mentioning: rather than succumbing to the loss of a local library, and a decline in cultural activities which are often centred around libraries (e.g. local reading groups, outreach projects for schools etc.), some areas have founded charities which are to run libraries in the near future:

“More than 20,000 people have become members of Nottinghamshire County Council’s new cultural organisation Inspire which began operating this week. The council is the first in the Midlands to set up an organisation to manage its libraries, archives, learning and cultural services across the county and began recruitment in November, which stands at 20,818 members to date. Inspire is a community benefit society, with charitable status, giving people a greater stake in the running of their neary library and other cultural and learning services.”

Read more about the Nottinghamshire County Council’s library scheme: link to an article in The Chad.

For a spirited, artful and inspiring defense of public libraries and the importance of browsing, borrowing, reading books in libraries, read Ali Smith’s collection of short stories Public Library and Other Stories, published by Hamish Hamilton (£16.99). The paperback edition by Penguin has been announced for 5 May 2016.