Saturday, July 27, 2019

People’s Power Defends Libraries!

By John Maryon
Waving the Red Flag in Ipswich library

Manchester 's Chetham Library is considered to be the oldest public library in Britain. The British Library is the UK’s largest and the national institution holds over 200 million items, including 14 million books. The Mark Memorial Library in London holds an invaluable collection of books, magazines and newspapers dealing with Marxism and working class history. Since 2010 more than 700 libraries have closed in Britain, with the loss of 800 jobs. Today many of our public libraries are under threat as cash strapped county councils cutback their services.
Public libraries help to educate, provide information, act as community hubs and enable readers to enjoy great literature that they may have been unable to afford to buy. An increasingly important role is the provision of digital access for those wishing to improve their computer skills or who do not own a computer – especially those jobless people forced to apply for work online. Our libraries are committed to educating young people so they may grow up to appreciate the beauty and form of the written language. They provide a source of enlightenment that gives the poor access to knowledge that would otherwise remain within the domain of the rich and privileged.
Essex County Council (ECC) planned to close 25 libraries and to convert others into voluntary run status, but did not expect the scale of determined opposition to the measures. Colchester saw the Young People's March against these plans. Children chanted “no ifs, no buts, no Essex library cuts” as they marched through the town accompanied by a bagpipe player and bongo drums. A second event, one of many, saw over 600 people campaign for 'Save our Essex Libraries' outside city hall in Chelmsford at which they made their voices heard.
After months of protest and demonstrations of people power ECC has finally dropped its plans to close 25 libraries. This follows over 21,000 responses to the council's public consultation and petitions signed by almost 60,000 people. The council is to invest £3 million into the service and has said that no libraries will close for five years. Campaigners remain concerned that some small ones could still be handed over to voluntary workers and lead to stealth closures. They have asked for assurances that all libraries would continue to employ paid professional staff.
Within three of East Anglia's main libraries, Colchester, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds, the {New Worker} is proudly on display. Donated by local comrades, the newspaper is available to read in their reference sections. We value and appreciate the decision of these institutions to allow an alternative viewpoint from that of the bourgeois press mass media. Would other comrades consider approaching their own local library to offer the {New Worker} as a donation?

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