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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

National Libraries Day

Today is National Libraries Day. An opportunity to celebrate our public library service at a time when it is under threat from public sector cuts. I have to declare an interest as a serious book lover in paper and electronic forms. I also have huge respect for librarians as a profession. After more than thirty years of representing them as a trade union official I have met many great union activists from this profession.

And I am obviously not alone. Many authors have come forward today to speak up for libraries including Kate Mosse who said,

“The brick and glass presence of libraries at the heart of our towns and cities gives the unequivocal message that books matter, that imagination matters, that the principles of free and fair access to literature and education to all matter. The most democratic of spaces, libraries are places where anyone - regardless of age or sex or background, their ambitions and opportunities (or lack of them) - is welcome and on an equal basis and for free. Libraries are home to the readers of today and the writers of tomorrow”

On National Libraries Day, we rightly celebrates the wonderful service that library staff in local libraries provide to communities across Scotland. Libraries, community learning centres and access points provide an ever more vital role in this time of recession and economic uncertainty. They provide accessible education and entertainment for people facing pay freezes, job insecurity or unemployment and rising costs.

But our library services themselves are increasingly under threat from cuts. Many councils are cutting opening hours, cutting jobs (particularly professional posts), and reducing the materials budgets. This is a false economy. Councillors and candidates in the forthcoming Scottish council elections should be campaigning for decent library provision and proper staffing levels, not cuts to this vital service.

I'll finish with Julia Donaldson, Waterstones Children’s Laureate, who has written a dedicated poem to celebrate National Libraries Day.

Everyone is welcome to walk through the door.
It really doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.
There are books in boxes and books on shelves.
They’re free for you to borrow, so help yourselves.

Come and meet your heroes, old and new,
From William the Conqueror to Winnie the Pooh.
You can look into the Mirror or read The Times,
Or bring along a toddler to chant some rhymes.

The librarian’s a friend who loves to lend,
So see if there’s a book that she can recommend.
Read that book, and if you’re bitten
You can borrow all the other ones the author’s written.

Are you into battles or biography?
Are you keen on gerbils or geography?
Gardening or ghosts? Sharks or science fiction?
There’s something here for everyone, whatever your addiction.

There are students revising, deep in concentration,
And school kids doing projects, finding inspiration.
Over in the corner there’s a table with seating,
So come along and join in the Book Club meeting.

Yes, come to the library! Browse and borrow,
And help make sure it’ll still be here tomorrow.


  1. I'm with ye Dave. Didn't discover the joy of the library until I stopped being a hip cat and realised that I was verging on the stupid.

  2. Our local library has had its opening hours reduced. The qualified librarian who left has not been replaced. We should all stand up for this vital community service.