THE usually serene atmosphere of Sheffield Central Library was shattered as protesters made a high profile point about library cuts.
They joined a national day of action for libraries, at one point putting their fingers to their lips for a mass ‘shhh’ following by a cheering for libraries. Then they gave staff their busiest day in a long time by trying to empty shelves.
Campaigners each took out the maximum 15 books allowed on their library cards.
They fear the city’s library budget of £8.5m could be cut by £2.5m, which would have a “devastating” effect on the level of services that could be provided for communities.
“You see mothers with children, adults in wheelchairs, old and young people, all getting together,” said Carl Clayton of SINTO, a partnership of library and information services in Yorkshire and East Midlands.
“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.”
He added: “In Sheffield they haven’t made any specific proposals for cuts or closures but there are these proposals to reduce the budget. Expenditure on libraries is a very small percentage of the total budget. In Sheffield it is less than 1%, 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.”
The Sheffield protest at the Surrey Street library last Saturday was backed by the group Library Workers For A Brighter Future.
Across the country library users, authors, parents and children
took part in demonstrations. High profile supporters included TV presenter Kirsty Young, singer and writer Billy Bragg and writers Philip Pullman, Colin Dexter, Mark
Haddon, Julia Donaldson and Kate Mosse.
The council is finalising its budget plans for the next year and widespread cuts in spending across all areas are expected.
At the same time the authority has said it is committed to upgrading the Central Library to secure its long- term future.