UK Library Association responds to Boris Johnson’s comments on the Andrew Marr Show

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have commented on the need to invest in public libraries in the past week, helping to shine a light on the value of libraries and librarians at the heart of communities everywhere and the need to rebuild after 10 years of austerity. We were pleased to see mentions of libraries in Manifesto commitments from the Labour Party, Conservatives, The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats. However, Mr Johnson’s comments on the Andrew Marr Show include three key misconceptions, which we are keen to correct.

CILIP, the UK’s Library and Information Association has responded to comments made by Conservative leader Boris Johnson during his interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday 1st December.

In the interview, Mr Johnson said “I love libraries” and commented that, “I’m afraid very often local authorities - and yes we want to be spending more and want to be supporting local authorities - but some local authorities have been able to manage their finances so as to open libraries. I want to invest in opening libraries but we can only do that if we get the economy motoring.”

Responding to these comments, Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP, commented, “We are delighted that following determined lobbying by CILIP and others, libraries are finally part of our national political debate.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have commented on the need to invest in public libraries in the past week, helping to shine a light on the value of libraries and librarians at the heart of communities everywhere and the need to rebuild after 10 years of austerity. We were pleased to see mentions of libraries in Manifesto commitments from the Labour Party, Conservatives, The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats.

However, Mr Johnson’s comments on the Andrew Marr Show include three key misconceptions, which we are keen to correct."

Firstly, local library services are not just the responsibility of Local Councils. The 1964 Public Libraries Act requires central Government to oversee and improve public library services – a responsibility which the previous Conservative Government failed to implement.

Secondly, while we are delighted that Mr Johnson’s local Council has been able to invest in libraries, the fact that many cannot has less to do with sound financial management and more to do with the cuts of c. 30-40% handed down to them by the previous Conservative Government. This is why we have called for a fair funding settlement for Local Government, to reverse the emergence of library ‘haves and have-nots’ across the country.

Finally, Mr Johnson appears to suggest that the country can only afford libraries when there has been an economic recovery. As we have commented time-and-again, this is a fundamentally misguided policy. By investing in libraries, you create opportunities for education and skills across the country, which in turn creates the conditions for future economic growth.

CILIP is leading the #VoteLibraries campaign to secure public and political support for better public library services as part of the 2019 General Election. Working with media star and educator Bobby Seagull, we have set out a 10-point ‘Manifesto for Libraries’ in order to create a more literate, open and inclusive Britain – http://librariesdeliver.uk/seagull.”


Write to your candidates about libraries and take the #VoteLibraries

pledge for the 12 December general election


Notes for Editors

CILIP is the UK Library and Information Association, working to support librarians and information professionals in more than 20 industry sectors. Our mission is to empower librarians and information professionals to change lives. For more information about our work, see http://www.cilip.org.uk

Libraries Deliver is a joint initiative by CILIP and US-based ‘super-PAC for libraries’ The EveryLibrary Institute. The initiative aims to build political visibility and influence for libraries and librarians in order to secure a better, more sustainable future for our sector. For more information, visit http://librariesdeliver.uk.

#VoteLibraries is the CILIP/EveryLibrary Institute campaign to secure support for libraries in the 2019 General Election. We have asked candidates to pledge to ‘vote libraries’ when developing policy initiatives in the next Parliament. For more information, visit http://votelibraries.uk.

To interview Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP, email nick.poole@cilip.org.uk or telephone 0207 255 0500.


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