One of the more heartening initiatives by advocates of the UK’s library system in the face of devastating – and ideologically dictated – “austerity” cuts, is the Library A to Z, which “has created a visual A to Z celebrating the wide range of services, resources and facilities that make libraries so fantastic.” The site contains: “materials, including illustrations, book, posters, cards and other advocacy materials that you are free to share and re-use,”as well as “links and information about what you can do to support libraries.” But its own story is almost as important and encouraging as the resources it provides.
Through the Voices for the Library national advocacy campaign, “in Autumn 2013 an A to Z list focusing on the positive impact of libraries was crowd-sourced. The intention was to use it to highlight the breadth of services, resources and facilities available, and celebrate the importance, value and relevance of well-funded and professionally-run public libraries. It is this A to Z that has turned into the illustrations and promotional and advocacy material that is freely available for use on this site.” The resulting Kickstarter campaign more than doubled up on its original target of £2,000, securing £4,543 in pledges from 155 backers.
The Library A to Z gives further comprehensive details of the importance of libraries here, referencing UNESCO and the National Literacy Trust as just a few of the other voices speaking on behalf of its cause. Yet, “over the past few years we have witnessed severe cuts in library service budgets resulting in the reduction of services, most notably by closures, shorter opening hours, staff cuts and the replacement of library staff with typically unsustainable and fragmented volunteer-run services. Cuts are often made in the name of austerity measures, yet in austere times libraries are of particular importance to the disadvantaged in our communities.”
It seems that grassroots advocacy and activism can achieve great things in the name of libraries. You can only hope, though, that the UK government doesn’t use this as a justification for pushing for the kind of volunteer-run services it seems to want to replace publicly funded libraries with.