Date: 15 March 2010
In the teeth of threatened public spending cuts, reduced opening hours, closures and reduced staff numbers, public service union – UNISON – has joined forces with Highland MSP Peter Peacock to promote the great service public libraries provide, and to urge the Scottish Government and local councils to maintain public support for them.
The union, which represents library staff in public, education and special libraries, has launched a UK-wide ‘Love your Libraries’ campaign, and in Scotland, has produced a special briefing for its branches urging them to scrutinise cuts proposals put forward by councils to identify attacks on library services, and to lobby their MSPs to get them to support the motion submitted by Peter Peacock MSP to the Scottish Parliament (Motion number S3M-05898).
Dave Watson – UNISON’s Scottish Organiser, said:
“Currently around 1 million Scots borrow books from Scotland’s 541 libraries and 82 mobile libraries, and many more use the much wider services that libraries provide via learning centres, and digital access. But there is evidence that authorities are cutting back on libraries, opening hours and qualified staff as a response to the unprecedented financial cutbacks.”
In a UK UNISON library members survey, more than 40% reported cuts in service, and two thirds reported inadequate staffing levels. In Scotland a number of UNISON branches are reporting proposed closures of libraries as the public spending squeeze begins to bite. The union is currently running a ‘Public Works’ campaign to defend public services from funding cuts.
Gray Allan, a UNISON Branch Secretary and library worker in Falkirk said:
“Libraries in Scotland are increasingly busy since the recession, and we need more resources to deliver the service that people want and need. More people in Scotland go to libraries than go to football matches. Our members deliver an essential service and people appreciate that, that is why I, many other branch members, and community service users will be marching in Glasgow on 10 April to Stop the Cuts.”
The union is also scathing about the attempt by Glasgow City Council to hive off its libraries to a trust, and suggests it has failed to deliver any of the planned extra funding.
Dave Watson said:
“Culture & Sport Glasgow, was promoted in 2007 in order to attract private finance. In fact the only money it has attracted is by tax avoidance, and the Trust is now facing a £1.7m cut this year, wants to freeze staff pay and close libraries. It has already drastically reduced book-buying in the final months of this financial year.”
Notes for editors: UNISON’s briefing is available on our website – http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/225libraries.pdf
The Public Works campaign details can be found on http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/publicworks/index.html