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