If ever there was a day for a librarian to stand up and be counted it’s today – Saturday 5th February 2011 – as up and down the country protests and read-ins aim to save our threatened public libraries. I duly headed into the city centre with my wife and son in tow to partake in the Cambridge ‘flashmob’ protest organised by everyone’s favourite @LibGoddess.
Arriving in good time for the 11am start we duly visited the Central library (due to suffer a 30% budget cut) first and borrowed a heap of books before joining the troops gathering at Costa Coffee near John Lewis. There we were handed some rather smart leaflets created by @Girlinthe with text explaining the threat to 13 out of 25 Cambridgeshire libraries and Phil Bradley’s wartime posters on the front. Placards had also been prepared by @Annie_Bob and I was very pleased to snaffle a large John Kirriemuir ‘Use Libraries – Learn Stuff’ one before we dispersed to the entrances of the Grand Arcade (we weren’t allowed to protest inside).
Now I’m not a seasoned protester by any stretch of the imagination, but the reasons for saving libraries seem like such a no-brainer to me that I had little or no concern about standing up for them in public. What I wasn’t prepared for was the immediate show of support from shoppers who wanted to know the detail of the threats and what they could do. Our response was quite simply: use your local library and write to your MP – and many said they would. A large number of people just gave thumbs up signs, while others shouted “here, here!” and “keep up the good work” as they walked past. It was clear that whatever the media or the government wants us to believe, the public (in Cambridge at any rate) don’t want to lose their libraries and completely value and recognise their function to educate, inform and inspire.
The protest also involved some ‘read-alouds’. We were treated to readings of an A S Byatt fairytale called The Eldest Princess and my son’s favourite book: Room on the Broom. At the other entrances there were readings from Ulysses, The Hobbit and Mr Snow. Eclectic huh?!
Before I close, a shout-out to my fellow protesters at the ‘John Lewis entrance’: my wife Marisa (above left – not the passing pensioner!) and son John, @lemurph (Helen Murphy), @pussy_galore_ (Emma Jones), @AidanBaker, @felicityms (Felicity Macdonald-Smith), Jillian Wilkinson and David. We did good today.
And find out more about saving our public libraries at Voices for the Library.