The Stormont Executive has announced further cuts to public libraries. A budget cut of 2.1% has been ordered from March 2015 and possibly an additional cut of 2.3% (or 4.4% cut in total) also by March 2015.
It hasn’t yet been decided how these cuts should be implemented. Certainly job cuts are a real possibility and agency staff are feeling very nervous. If jobs are cut, the remaining staff know they will be working even harder than they are already and having to deal with stressed and angry customers having to queue. Public libraries are vital to working class communities as centres for people to meet, for computer access, for beginners computer training, job club , reading groups/literacy support, parent and toddler groups etc.
NIPSA – the union representing library staff – should immediately start campaigning to take action in defence of public libraries and to resist these cuts. The NIPSA Branch has already been on strike this year over pay (or the lack of it!) so there is a certain mood to struggle. A strong anti-cuts campaign will bolster the branch, help recruitment and strengthen members understanding of what real trade unionism means. By also linking with local community groups the cuts can be defeated. Three years ago the Assembly parties pushed through a major cuts package including the closure of over a dozen libraries. A strong campaign then forced management to partially back down and kept ten libraries open.