LIBRARIES – At The Heart Of Power

In Newcastle, on 20th November 2012  there is to be an Emergency Public Meeting to save the majority of Newcastle’s public libraries from the Coalition Government’s axe. 1. Libraries are worth fighting for. Show your support. Coalition for Resistance 2.

LIBRARIES  –  At The Heart Of Power

What do libraries mean to you ? Childhood memories, student study time, source of a good read?  Our libraries are much more important than most of us realise.

They are:

  • The Heart of Power
  • A Hive of Information
  • The Hub of a Community 

Knowledge is a Powerful Thing:

Maintenance of the inequity endemic in our society is ensured because the means necessary for changing the status quo is denied to anyone seeking to right the injustice. Knowledge, learning, and information are powerful tools.

The working classes have always had skill and knowledge.  Without it, the fields and factories would have been unproductive. Exploiting other people was how the ruling classes acquired their wealth. To maintain this wealth, they needed power and influence, and since wealth can buy the media, the church, and government itself, fear must obstruct anyone to point out the blatant injustice.

Had it not been for trade unionism and the Labour movement, wider access to education and knowledge during the last century would have remained an impossible dream for ordinary men and women.  Founded in 1903, and still active today the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) (3) stands for:

  • Raising educational aspirations
  • Bringing great teaching and learning to local communities
  • Ensuring there is always an opportunity for adults to return to learning
  • Developing educational opportunities for the most disadvantaged
  • Involving students and supporters as members to build an education movement for social purpose
  • Inspiring students, teachers and members to become active citizens

The second half of the twentieth century  was an education revolution, and from the working class families of mines and mills, came doctors, educationalists, lawyers and politicians.  Yet now, in the twenty first century the tide is turning back. The coalition’s plan is for education and knowledge to be available for the privileged only.  Anyone who can justify or seeks to benefit from privatized education, health, or services, does so by stealth, and by subordination of others.

From this  Coalition government, Liberal Democrats backing the Conservative agenda, we have seen a hike in University Tuition fees, Gove’s persistent and perpetual interventions in a national curriculum which does not apply to private schools, the attack on the Open University (4) ,  Labour’s flagship policy for higher education,  privatization of public services (5)  and closure of public libraries, (6), (7). These are all policies which seek to wind back the clock by a hundred years. Cuts hit hardest in the most deprived areas (8) , and hit the most vulnerable hardest.

Libraries  and Information – A Tale of Two Cities

We look to Labour to present policies,  enhancing the rights and equality of ordinary men and women, not  more news of cuts and austerity, those arguments now having been widely discredited and the media deception exposed. (16)

We look to a reinvigorated socialist Labour Party to invest in people building further on the educational advancement for working people.

Imagine a widely accessible expansion of The Open University, courses on the Internet open to all – not just degrees. This would be such a wonderful potential for life-long learning at all levels.

Libraries provide an essential service, and the part that public libraries, staffed by highly trained professional staff have played in enabling the sharing of knowledge should not be diminished . Access to books, an expensive resource for information and entertainment transformed life for many.  Libraries are a rich resource and when staffed with well-paid professionals and provide a valuable asset for any civilised society.

Originally planned in 2004,  when Labour were in government, a futuristic source of information for both the general public and university study came to fruition this year. The Hive, the first of its kind in Europe opened in the city of Worcester. The Hive is an environmentally sustainable public library, has one of the largest children’s libraries in the country amalgamated with a University library. (9, 10, 11)

More projects like the Hive should be Labour’s vision. These new super-libraries, linked to an enhanced Open University could transform all of our lives.

In contrast, in the city of Newcastle, (13)  and around the country we are seeing cuts to library services hit hard at the young at the threshold of learning, at the elderly who regularly make use of it.  They stem the development of individuals and of our society.  Outreach library services are essential for rural communities.  Suggestions that volunteers can replace qualified staff is an insult to their professionalism, as if a library is nothing more than a second hand bookshop, rather than a hive of activity of learning. A wealth of information on the debate about public libraries can be found at the Prometheus site (Public Service News.15.).

We must oppose these unnecessary cuts, and privatization such as that proposed at Barnet (5) , which could commit local councils to contracts for generations.

Recent attempts to destroy the BBC, to politicize the police, have sinister overtones.  We are facing the most right wing government in sixty years. What further action will they take to silence opposition?

Voices of the Internet, social media, meetings and blogs are not (yet) owned by or blocked by the government’s censorship, and many voices of opposition speak loudly.

On November 20th 2012, at St John’s Church Hall, 30 Grainger Street, Newcastle there will be a crucial meeting, in a attempt to save Newcastle’s public libraries.   

As reported in Saturday’s Journal; the ‘majority of Newcastle libraries are to be axed…as city chiefs set out £90m of cuts over the next three years…’

 In response to this proposed attack on local public services, Coalition of Resistance are holding an emergency public meeting to help initiate a campaign to defend the Newcastle Libraries service.

Speakers: authors Alan Gibbons and David Almond, Newcastle Unison branch secretary Paul Gilroy. Chaired by Clare Harwood, vice chair of Tyne and Wear Coalition of Resistance.

                 If you would like to help in anyway, please email cornortheast@gmail.com 

References and Further Reading:  

  1. The Journal: Majority of Newcastle’s Libraries to be axed as cuts bite.
  2. Coalition for Resistance: Emergency meeting 20:Nov:12 Save Newcastle Libraries
  3.  The workers’ Education Association: http://www.wea.org.uk
  4.  Think Left The University without Walls 
  5.  Think Left: Privatising Council Services: Where Barnet goes, others will followThink Left:
  6. Think Left: A 21st Century Library Service
  7. Beyond Books: The Future of Libraries
  8. Guardian: Cuts hit deprived cities most
  9. The University  of Worcester: The Hive
  10. The Hive at Worcester 
  11. The Guardian: Higher Education Network – Hive
  12. Think Left: Princess Poppy and the Patriarchy
  13. The Guardian: Newcastle Libraries Closures attacked – Authors
  14. Think Left: Public Service or Private Profit 
  15. Public Libraries News Prometheus: very useful refs for Public Libraries Debate 
  16.  Osborne and Cameron’s big Deficit Myth
 

2 thoughts on “LIBRARIES – At The Heart Of Power

  1. Living in Kirklees, we are lucky to have a great library service.

    They offer the usual books, CD’s, DVD’s and computers. They also offer great activities for children including craft activities and science project.

    The staff are excellent and know us by our first names. They even pick out new books for my kids, so they have something new to look at.

    I am lucky, and I hope Newcastle save their Libraries.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Councils in a Pickle | Think Left

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