Cardiff rallies to save its libraries

Library users, authors, community campaign groups and UNISON members came together in Cardiff on Saturday (7 Febraury) for one of the brashest demonstrations of community power in recent years.

Hundreds of people people gathered outside Cardiff Central Library to mark National Libraries Day where various authors and poets addressed the crowd.

With local branches under threat as well as the proposed reduction in Cardiff central libraries provision, many campaigners are angered after the council voted by two voteslalst week agasint a motion to preserve the service.

Speaking on behalf library workers, UNISON area organiser Michael Sweetman said: “The council has drastically underestimated the level of support for libraries amongst the public.

“It’s obvious that people across Cardiff aren’t interested in seeing trained staff thrown out of work and replaced with unpaid volunteers – they want to continue to have a properly-funded library service.

“The level of support for this event from authors and the public has been incredible. We just hope that the Labour group on the council will listen before it’s too late.”

Author Tessa Hadley, whhose book The London Train scenes set in the local library in library Cathays, told the crowd: “My children went to Cathays school so I know this library well, and I’ve always found it very beautiful – both the architecture, and the ideal of open access to books which that architecture embodies.

“Libraries were very important to me when I was a child, they were a doorway to other worlds. The tall windows let in the light in all sorts of ways.

“I know it’s easy to think of libraries as dispensable when other essential services are on the line because of government cuts, but I passionately believe that library provision is essential too. Free access to the treasure house of books and the worlds of knowledge and imagination inside them was such a precious lifeline to me when I was growing up.

“The library is a door that opens on the world outside, and it’s also a precious aspect of our human community. It’s a symbol too, of the real value our community puts on culture and knowledge – especially the beautiful Carnegie library, recently restored.”

Library user Helen Rouse added: ”I grew up with the library, it gave me access to more books than I could ever have afforded.

“I now take my own children to our beloved Rhydypennau Library. I love that it is the place that they are most comfortable and it is the place where they get to choose the books that interest them, not the onesI choose for them.”

Adam Johannes of the Cardiff People’s Assembly, who was present at the council meeting vote said: ”In 1946, the country was in ruins, we were bankrupted, in debt, with a higher deficit than now, and yet the government had a vision and launched the Arts Council with the slogan, ‘The Best for the Most’, the best in arts, education and culture for the most people. T

“hey expanded the library service, invested in museums and galleries, made them free admission, all with a mission to use culture to enrich our society. Reading and writing are some of the earliest activities human beings have engaged in.

“When a society says, ‘there’s no money for libraries’, they are really saying, ‘there is no money to be human’.”