Sheffield library workers campaigning against feared budget cuts have been banned from holding a children’s creative writing workshop featuring ‘Bard of Barnsley’ Ian McMillan amid concerns over “political comments”.
The event was to be a “fun and creative” way of highlighting the value of libraries and organisers wanted to stage it at Upperthorpe Library on Monday February 21.
Organisers from anti-cuts group Library Workers For A Brighter Future, are staff who believe service cuts – which they fear will total £2.5 million in the next three years – will have a “major impact” on quality of the service, which costs £8.5m a year.
Sheffield Council said it has no plans to close libraries and could not comment on the cuts figure.
A spokesman for the group, said: “The event, conceived as a fun and creative way of highlighting the value of public libraries, appears to have caused great concern for the council, with the decision over whether it should be allowed to go ahead passed all the way up to members of the senior management. The council objected on the grounds that political comments could be made at the event.
“We view this as a misguided and heavy-handed attempt to silence those of us who want to stand up for our library service and oppose the potentially devastating public sector cuts.
“As a campaigning organisation we are keen to work with the council wherever possible to highlight the good work that libraries do in our communities.
“This lack of cooperation on even such a simple thing as a children’s creative writing workshop leaves us with little option but to pursue other ideas.”
Library Workers for a Better Future is now planning a mass ‘Shhhh! In’ at Central Library, Surrey Street, on Saturday, and hopes hundreds of people will attend.
Protesters are being asked to gather at the lending library, all say Shhhh! at 11am, then ‘three cheers’ for libraries – and, finally, borrow as many books as possible.
The event has been timed to coincide with a national day of action against library cuts.
Mr McMillan would not comment about the decision but reiterated his support for libraries.
He said: “Libraries are a vital and irreplaceable part of a cultured and civilised society and one of the few public places left where you don’t have to pay to get in.”
A Sheffield Council spokeswoman confirmed the event would not proceed.
She said: “We understood they wanted to hold a workshop event in a library which would celebrate libraries and be part of their campaign against cuts.
“When councillors haven’t made any decisions about funding for libraries in the coming year, it would not be appropriate to hold an event like this in a library.
“Ian McMillan is a great writer and a great Yorkshireman. He’s also a powerful ambassador for celebrating what libraries have to offer and is always assured of a warm welcome here. If something has got lost in translation here, then we want to put it right.
“We would be delighted to work with him to showcase what Sheffield’s libraries do.”