Protesters to gather in Whitstable at the weekend
PROTESTORS will be gathering this weekend in an attempt to save their local library service. Following the announcement of Kent County Council’s money-saving plans to hand over libraries to charitable trusts, Whitstable residents are inviting people to join in their protest on Saturday at 10.30am. On the day, National Libraries Day, adults and children are asked to celebrate by “chalking” on the pavement outside why they think libraries are so special or drawing favourite literary characters. A Save Our Public Libraries petition will also be launched at the event, with the aim to get sufficient signatures to force a full debate on the future of Kent’s libraries. KCC rules state that 2,500 signatures guarantee a committee debate and 10,000 force a debate in full council.
Richard Stainton, of the Whitstable improvement Trust, said:
“Our aim is to protect Kent’s network of 99 libraries — which is something that people in Kent can be very proud of. My fear is that handing the libraries to a trust will lead to closures of smaller libraries, a loss of professional staff and an over-reliance on volunteers. It will instantly end the democratic say we all have through our councillors in the future of Kent’s library service. Trusts elsewhere have provided an excuse for cuts and closures and, of course, once the service is handed over we wifi never get it back again, even if the Trust fails, because the council will have lost all the organisation and expertise needed to run a quality public service.”
Mr Stainton, of Sydenham Street, said “libraries are the heart beat of a community”. He said:
“They are free, open to us all and something we share. So many shared public resources have been lost over recent years, so we can’t lose our network of libraries if community and society are to continue to have any meaning. On a day-to-day level, libraries are fantastic for learning, enjoyment, promoting wellbeing and helping people find jobs and doing all the other essential tasks in life — whether they are young or old, rich or poor or from any family background. Having a local public library has always been a hallmark of civic pride and many of us still feel proud of our communities.”
Herne Bay Times, February 4th 2015