This is a letter from Anthea Beaumont to the Swindon Advertiser
IT was good to read that Swindon’s libraries bucked the national trend and saw an increase in visitors and loans over the last five years. No doubt the impressive new Central Library was one reason for the encouraging figures, but it must also be down to the sheer hard work and enthusiasm of the library staff. As a college librarian I have worked with colleagues from the borough library on projects such as the Six Books Challenge, which is designed to bring new readers into libraries and get people reading and talking about books. I know from first hand of the dedication of the staff and all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure a first rate service.
It is therefore very discouraging to read that the council are preparing to spend £50,000 on consultants to look at library and leisure services. In a time of austerity this money should be spent on books and staff and not external bodies. There are alarming reports in the press of libraries being run by unpaid volunteers and of library books being housed in supermarkets and even pubs. This is no way to run a library service. And in answer to Councillor Foley’s question – should the local authority still be running the service – yes, absolutely. Public libraries are part of a huge network of libraries, including academic institutions, across the country and abroad, and depend on mutual cooperation. They do not exist in isolation. In a civilised society we pay local taxes for precisely this sort of benefit which has a value beyond price.