Another 5% cut in Libraries NI’s budget has been announced. This is the sixth round of cuts in as many years. It’s death by a thousand cuts as the Tories want to close public services that don’t make a profit and local politicians go along with it.
It will lead to many agency staff being sacked and a reduced service for everyone. Opening hours will be reduced and management are expecting emergency closures as staffing levels are now so critically low. Single manning – where one member of staff mans a library, which is obviously unsafe – will increase.
All this despite the fact that library usage, particularly among young people, has been increasing. Nearly half of all children here use a library. In many areas, children go to the library after school as parents can’t afford childcare. These reductions in opening hours, particularly emergency closures, will hit working class families hard and put children at risk.
The Board of Libraries NI is made up mostly of representatives of the main political parties. Surely these parties claim to look after the interests of working class people? If so, their combined votes could block these cuts. Instead, these local Tories have collectively voted through these cuts, while at the same time collecting their fat-cat salaries.
Last year the Hands Off Our Libraries’ campaign – led by Socialist Party members – generated enough negative publicity to force Communities Minister Paul Givan to reverse plans to cut opening hours at 14 libraries. Protesting works! We must return to this approach again to resist any new cuts and demand adequate investment in our library services.