"Someone has to act as caretakers of our precious libraries"

This letter sent to the Star was written by Jacqueline Hughes, Sheffield, S12

Monday, 20th January 2020, 11:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 7:51 am
Frecheville Libary and Learning Centre

Having read several letters criticising volunteer-run libraries, I feel compelled to offer an alternative perspective.

There is no doubt that the closure of libraries and loss of qualified staff was and continues to be a major blow for Sheffield. When the council first announced the closures, I along with many other people supported the Save our Libraries campaign but to no avail.

Austerity has had a devastating impact on all public services and it is clear that vulnerable people are suffering most as a result of the cuts. It was for this reason that, once the library closures became a reality, I decided to do what I could to help my local library remain open.

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Consequently, I have had the privilege of working alongside a group of diverse people who may not have the skills of professional librarians but offer other areas of expertise and knowledge and do so with immense enthusiasm. Everyone involved is motivated only by the desire to keep the library open.

Let’s face it, were it to close, at best it would soon become a derelict building, attracting vandalism and anti-social behaviour and at worst it would be sold off to make way for much needed housing.

As it stands now it is still a resource for people who would otherwise have no access to things that most of us take for granted. Elderly people come in for a warm, a chat and a cuppa. Children whose families can’t afford to buy books have the opportunity to use the children’s section. People who don’t have access to a computer or printer come in and use the libraries. There are also activities every day that bring the community together.

Every single volunteer I have met is devastated by the loss of properly funded and professionally staffed libraries but they are all committed to preventing them from disappearing altogether.

Ultimately, the hope is that eventually the government will see sense and acknowledge the value of libraries to our society and they will thrive once more. Until then someone has to act as caretakers of our precious libraries so that there is something left to return to.