Held to account – turning activism into political support for libraries in 2020

As the UK’s library and information association, CILIP has a simple objective - to raise the visibility and influence of libraries in our national political agenda.

As the UK’s library and information association, CILIP has a simple objective - to raise the visibility and influence of libraries in our national political agenda. Working with our partners at the EveryLibrary Institute, we launched #VoteLibraries, a multi-platform campaign to secure support for libraries from the public, the media and policymakers. And what a campaign it has been!

For the first time in living memory, four of the ‘main’ political parties in England – the Labour Party, the Conservatives, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats – all included references to libraries in their Manifesto commitments. (tweet this)

These commitments followed targeted lobbying from CILIP through our network of MP’s and Peers in Westminster, alongside the launch of our 10-point Manifesto for Libraries with Library Champion Bobby Seagull.

Perhaps more importantly, both of the main candidates for No 10 – Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson – have made statements on libraries in the national media.

Corbyn voiced his unequivocal support for libraries, committing to protect them and reinstate funding to pre-2010 levels alongside the Manifesto pledge to reinstate much-needed public library standards. (tweet this)

Johnson, when challenged over library funding on the Andrew Marr Show, voiced his support for libraries, but seemed to position them as a luxury that can only be afforded in times of economic strength – prompting CILIP to issue a public clarification. (tweet this)

The 2019 Election campaign itself has been one of the dirtiest in living memory – with doubt being thrown on facts, evidence and the integrity of the BBC. CILIP itself has had to issue a formal complaint over the re-branding of the Conservative Party @CCHQPress twitter account as an independent fact-checking service. (tweet this)

And then, just as we were heading into the final week of the campaign, CIPFA released the latest figures showing that nearly 800 libraries have been shut since 2010. Again, CILIP went into action, providing commentary and quotes for the national and regional press and media challenging the next Government to do better. (tweet this)

The #VoteLibraries campaign itself has also been a great success. Hundreds of library supporters – ordinary members of the public who love libraries - have written to their local Candidates asking them to support libraries. 322 people, including dozens of prospective Parliamentary candidates, have signed and shared our ‘#VoteLibraries Pledge’ since it launched in November.

So we have succeeded in making sure that libraries are on the national political agenda for the 2019 General Election. But we can’t afford to ease off now. We have to ensure that whoever forms the next Government, we hold them to account for reversing the damage done to libraries through 10 years of austerity.

We are currently working on two scenarios:

1) If the Government is formed by a Party or Parties that are strongly supportive of reinvestment in libraries, we will work with librarians to hold them to account for delivering on their commitments. This includes working with them to put real plans in place under the 2020 Governmental Spending Review – ensuring that the sector sees the policy and investment is so desperately needs, and;

2) If the Government continues to ignore the urgent need to rebuild our national publicly-funded library network, we will actively petition the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for a Public Enquiry into 10 years of neglect of public libraries as a statutory service, while also exploring the other legal channels available to us.

Whoever forms the next Government, we are also going to be working on a targeted campaign in the 2020 Local Elections – including the possibility of organising local ‘Library Hustings’ so that local Councillors can set out how they plan to support their library services.

We believe that the new Government has an opportunity to reverse the picture of neglect and in our public libraries and to seize the opportunity to invest in communities and opportunity for everyone by ushering in a ‘Library Renaissance’ over the next Parliament.

Through http://librariesdeliver.uk we are delivering a highly effective platform to harness public and political support for library services everywhere. If you haven’t got involved yet, sign up today at http://librariesdeliver.uk and help us build the Library Party in the UK!