Not so quiet in Central Library

Piles of books are taken out of Sheffield Central Library, as a protest over proposed cut backs in the library servuce.
Piles of books are taken out of Sheffield Central Library, as a protest over proposed cut backs in the library servuce.

THEY say the pen is mightier than the sword.

Then again, sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Certainly that was the case when protesters descended for a ‘Shhh-In’ at Sheffield Central Library to register their disapproval of proposals to chop nearly a third of the city’s library budget.

There were similar scenes at libraries across the county and nation as government and council austerity measures hit public services, with many areas set to lose libraries.

Hundreds of protesters put their fingers to their lips for the mass ‘shhh’ following by cheering for libraries. Then they gave library staff their busiest day in a while as they used their entire lending limit and left with stacks of book.

Organiser Carl Clayton who runs SINTO, a partnership of libraries throughout Yorkshire, said: “The issue figures will show a little jump today. It might get new people in who haven’t been to the library for some time. At the moment we don’t have a petition so we’re just saying borrow books because it is a nice thing to do.

“You see mothers with children, adults in wheelchairs, old and young people, all getting together. The Central Library doesn’t always have that sense of community whereas for local branch libraries that’s a very important part of what they do.

“The idea of today was to get people along to show their support for libraries so the council can get an idea of the enthusiasm and to try to get our message across libraries are very important to the community.”

A potential loss of £2.5m from the present library budget of £8.5m would have a devastating effect on the level of services that can be delivered, warned protesters.

“In Sheffield they haven’t made any specific proposals for cuts or closures but there are these proposals to reduce the budget,” said Carl.

“Expenditure on libraries is a very small percentage of the total budget. In Sheffield it is less than one per cent, so even if you did cut libraries you’re not saving money for other services. Cutting libraries as well is just adding another level of pain on top of what people will already suffer.”