Calls for cross-industry campaign to save library service
14.06.10 | Catherine Neilan

Figures across the book trade are looking to join forces in a bid to save library services from disproportionate cuts, expected to be announced as part of the Budget on 22nd June.

In an email seen by The Bookseller, BA chief executive Tim Godfray said the body would be happy to attend a cross-industry meeting to find a way to preserve services and outlined key points in a campaign plan.

He said: “Rather than sitting around a table with friends and saying, in affect, that libraries are a good thing and we should mount a campaign, it would be much more beneficial if at the first cross-industry meeting we could be presented with a campaign plan.”

Godfray stressed the campaign “has” to be led by people within the library service, but suggested a number of key areas that should be considered, including identifying the relevant “decision makers”, deciding on the most effective arguments in approaching them, and working out how the campaign may be financed.

The group should include specialists in lobbying, communications and “perhaps an economist (if the key arguments are going to centre around money)”, he added.

“The Booksellers Association believes that libraries play an essential part in society. I suppose it could be argued that without libraries booksellers would sell more books – but we don’t see it that way,” said Godfray. “We believe libraries play a key role in promoting books and reading, and
that all the fantastic work that goes on in libraries significantly helps to develop a more literate society.”

His email came in response to a press release sent out last week by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, with chair and former poet laureate Andrew Motion highlighting the importance of the services.

Miranda McKearney, director of The Reading Agency, supported Godfray’s call for a combined approach, promising to use a House of Commons event being run this summer to launch this year’s Summer Reading Challenge as an “advocacy focus” to brief MPs on the issue. “But best of all would be finding a way to galvanise the public en masse to lobby their local authority,” she said.

Campaigner Desmond Clarke said he had received “other messages of support for the idea of a forum of librarians, authors, readers, publishers and booksellers and campaign groups to work with the DCMS and DCLG to put across a powerful message to local authorities.”

Other stakeholders and library campaigners complained that though Motion’s letter had been “well-intentioned”, the effort was “puny” and unlikely to result in any change in action from the local authorities.

In particular, attention was drawn to the actions of the New York Library
director Paul LeClerc, who took his campaign to City Hall.

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