The Guardian: Hands Off Our Libraries Feature

The Guardian G2 front page on the loss of Island libraries

The Guardian got in touch with VB last week (as are many other Nationals – the Island is quite the story at the moment!).

Guardian G2 Isle of Wight libraries coverThey wanted to understand what the Isle of Wight council’s proposed cuts were all about, in particular, the libraries.

We were happy to provide information and hook them up with contacts across the Island who were concerned about the loss of their library.

The Guardian at Island libraries
Happily Jon Henley, and Martin Godwin his photographer, spent Wednesday at Bembridge and Ventnor libraries chatting to every-day library users, as well as those who have motivated themselves into opposing the loss of libraries on the Island.

The result is out today, getting front cover of the Guardian’s G2 and a four page spread detailing the concerns of Islanders.

Obviously it’s well written, containing some great sections, which we’ve separated below …

There is another approach: along the lines advocated by former Waterstones’ boss and passionate library campaigner Tim Coates, Hillingdon council cut central library service costs by £250,000 or so five years ago, gave the money to librarians to buy books people actually wanted to read, and watched borrowing figures soar by 500%.

George Brown: “we should have been making this kind of move out to the communities much earlier. This is a real opportunity. I’m a passionate supporter of libraries; they’re part of the fabric of the island, and we intend to save as much of the service as we can – if possible, expand it. But we are going to have to do it co-operatively.”

The council says it has had “a lot of positive response” to its proposals

John Heelan asked for the figures and did the sums: in 2009, he says, Bembridge residents borrowed 66% more books than the average islander, and were 84% more likely to visit the library. “And that’s under-use?” he snorts.

Paul Richardson, a genial professor, rails that on an island with a large number of retired people, a higher-than-average unemployment rate and a child literacy problem, the council’s proposals “will hit hardest those who most need, and use, libraries”. If the current plans go ahead, he says, the council may be “failing to fulfil its statutory responsibilities. It would certainly be drastically reducing the access of a substantial proportion of the island’s population – and especially the young, the old and the least well off – to reading for pleasure, information and instruction. And it would equally be reducing access to connectivity.”

Rachel Clark, mother to one pre-schooler. “This is an amazing place, really. Dedicated staff, amazingly helpful. And it’s not just the books; children make friends here. For lots of old people, it’s a big part of their daily life. Loads of families come in to Bembridge from all around for the library, and shop on the high street – it’s a huge part of the community, a vital hub. Are we really going to lose all that?”

Head out and buy your own paper copy (shock, horror!) to see the selection of photos on the article, or you can read the copy online.

Friday, 4th February, 2011 2:50pm



Filed under: Bembridge, Budget Cuts, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Print, Ventnor

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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26 Comments on "The Guardian: Hands Off Our Libraries Feature"

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My mother is 79 and uses Sandown Library on a regular basis along with lots of other neighbours and younger people,the unemployed etc. The other week she took part in the 300 people demonstration outside the library.Power to the people and down with our local and national ignorant politicians-those who are not standing up for the rights of the voters.

Black Dog

George Brown – Hypocrite?

I just hope the people of the Island wake up and get rid of this completely inept group of councillors.

Let us all hope the majority of Conservative members rebel against the cuts. Savings can be made elsewhere, it would require some hard work by the highly paid officers!!!!


I drew Pughs attention to Hillingdons dealings with Libraries 3 months ago and again recently to Benyon on the Radio…..


So modest, Ventnor Blog – you’ve left out the line that says, ‘follow it on the excellent Ventnor Blog’. Well, I’ll repeat it, if you won’t.


Tomorrow is a National day of action against library closure. Do anything within the law prevent their closures on the Island. Civil disobedience is justified in this case I believe,but that is my opinion,which I am free to express currently-not much longer in this country I fear. We are going the way of Egypt’s dictatorship


Ventnor could not have asked for better support than this first class article which cheered our morning reading.
All is not yet lost despite the lunatics in charge of the asylum.
We could indeed take heart from Egypt.

Tim Coates

Thank you very much for the mention here. If I can be of any assistance to the council or your readers, please do get in touch. I’d love to help

Tim Coates

Sue M

This is a generous offer from Tim Coates and we should certainly explore all avenues to save us money, increase library usage and keep professional librarians in publicly funded libraries at the heart of the service!

No future
Don’t forget Saturday 5th is Celebrate Libraries day. Go along to your local library to see just what’s on offer. “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” The 2 main island events are at Sandown and Ventnor but let’s show just how valued all our libraries are. Passing the buck to volunteers and town/parish councils is NOT the answer. Does the Conservative party want to be… Read more »
Reg Gierson

What? An accolade like “Mrs Thatcher, milk snatcher”?

No, the Tories won’t worry, because no-one remembers things like that! And even if they do, people are still daft enough to vote for them.

Dave Q
I am surprised at your comment, I can assure you that although a number of dyed in the wool Torys will vote for the present maladministration, there are many of us who will be around to vociferously remind the forgetful ones of what this group of crooks have done to our Island when the revolution (next election) comes round. Many of the immigrants to the Island may… Read more »
Dave Q
Firstly, I apologise that this comment is not a direct response to the excellent article. The Councils Library consultation period ends on Monday, please either phone or email your local councillor by Monday to express your desire to see the Island libraries stay as they are now. Home phone and email addresses are available from the Councils own web site. Please even if you don’t use the… Read more »
Parish Clerk
This whole consultation has been divisive. The threat of 5 libraries closing their doors on 1st April if formal expressions of interest have not been received is a real one. We have been put under inordinate pressure to respond to this by 7th February if we want to keep our libraries open beyond the deadline. Town and parish councils whose libraries are under immediate threat are facing… Read more »
Sue M
I agree that we should present a united front; if we all rejected the proposals to pay for and run local libraries ourselves, it would very difficult to see how the Council was fulfilling its statutory duty to provide “a comprehensive and efficient service”. Remember that these cuts are the most severe in the UK; that is one reason why The Guardian chose to write this report… Read more »
nigel w
Would just like to say that we visited Ventnor library last year whilst on holiday. We used the internet and borrowed a DVD. The welcome and service received was fantastic. The staff were so friendly and the library was bright and well stocked. It would be such a shame to see the closure of this library, it serves locals and tourists alike. Good luck with your campaign.… Read more »
Sue Morgan

I have been collecting signatures for our “Save Ventnor Library” campaign (more than 1900 and still rising!)and despite this being far from the holiday season several groups of visitors have signed it because they say that they always use the library when here on holiday. So if the libraries go this will be yet another adverse impact on tourism.

Daniel Roberts
Today I received a letter from the Deputy Leader of the Council, George Brown. Two sentences are very important for those considering forming a voluntary group to run their library: ‘Provided that a community moves towards the formation of a Library Local after the end of the consultation period, there is no reason for any part of the Island to fear it may lose its local library.… Read more »

The Government has a legal responsibility to provide professional library services for all.
What they are advocating with the cuts and asking for volunteers is breaking the law.They should be taken to court-if not in Britain,then in Europe.

they may have a legal responsibility, but will that responsibility be fulfilled by keeping newport and ryde libraries, and online services? I dont know enough about it myself, but perhaps theres an interested lawyer who could look into what the statutory obligation actually entails. It could mean keeping the system as it is at present, or the statutory obligation could be fulfilled by as little as a… Read more »
Mike Judge

Eric Pickles is praising council’s who make cuts to management not front-line services. Are Pugh and Co aware of this? I bet they are. No chance of praise for David and his merry followers. They are certainly not following Eric’s orders.

Daniel Roberts

Maybe we could make a public appeal for a benevolent lawyer to help save the Island’s libraries (as a volunteer, of course!).

Z. Morgan
Just a reminder to all Islanders to meet at County Hall at 4 pm today (Monday 7th February)in order to hand over the various petitions from all over the Island. Mrs Rachel Beasley and myself have been petitioning in Cowes this last few weeks and have approximately 1,800 signatures! In that time not one single person was in agreement with the Councils proposal regarding the new direction… Read more »
Jim M

The petition from far-flung Ventnor exceeded 2100 in the same time. We did have 2 people that agreed with the Council’s proposal, but that’s what democracy is for. The people have spoken very, very clearly. Now let’s see if our elected council will represent us.


Ummmm if only the Council would take note of what the people have said,but I think they are like in “Little Britain”-“The Public say we want our well used and valuable libraries-this is put into their collective computer brain and then “Computer Says No!” Afraid we have moved from a caring democracy the a Big Brother state.
We need to rebel,but how?!

Daniel Roberts
I’m starting to think that talking to them may in fact be quite effective. I’ve called a number today of all persuasions, and to be fair, they sounded pretty reasonable when speaking individually and whatever their own positions, they really did seem to have registered the depth of public feeling about losing professionally staffed libraries. I have virtually never contacted my councillors before. Perhaps it’s something we… Read more »
Well,they may smile and placate you when you phone them,but when it comes to their voting,will they lose sight of what the voter wants as they want to please central Government?-they are mostly Conservatives in central Government and local Government on the Island,so they are not going to disagree with their paymaster?However,we the public pay for local services,so they should take note of us,not use us to… Read more »