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Date: Fri 8 February 2013

UNISON urges support for library services – National Libraries Day 9 February

UNISON today hit out at cuts to library services and urged councillors to defend libraries at the heart of local communities.

Tomorrow (Saturday 9 February) is National Libraries Day, which celebrates the role of libraries and the range of information and entertainment they provide.

However, recent years of cuts have hit library services hard, with closures around Scotland and many now operating reduced hours.

Gray Allan, Secretary of Falkirk UNISON branch, and a librarian, said: “Libraries offer a fantastic place for people to come to for knowledge and information and expert help from trained librarians. It is desperately sad and wrong that at a time of financial difficulties for so many, library services are being cut back. We need improved services, not to make it harder for people to access a library.”

UNISON said another worrying development is the loss of mobile libraries. A number have been axed in council cutbacks and more are under threat as budget decisions are taken this month. Aberdeen, Moray, East Lothian and Midlothian councils are among those that have closed or propose to close mobile libraries. Yet many elderly people, and others who can’t easily get to a nearby library, rely on the mobile service not just for books, but the human contact and interaction which libraries themselves also provide.

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, said: “Libraries, community learning centres and access points are more vital than ever just now. They provide accessible education and entertainment for people facing pay freezes, job insecurity or unemployment and rising costs.

“It is a false economy to cut these vital services and in some areas the cuts are severe.”

In Moray, the council is proposing to close seven libraries and one mobile library. This leaves eight libraries (four with reduced opening hours) and one mobile library to cover 2,238 square miles. This is in the eighth largest geographical council area in Scotland. Three librarian posts and one mobile library driver would go, with one librarian expected to cover four of the remaining libraries, while the book budget is cut by £25,000.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said cuts to library services around the UK have a big impact: “Children from the poorest families will suffer the most, as will their chances of a decent education. Low income families are struggling to afford the basic essentials, let alone books.

“Countless high profile writers have highlighted how crucial their local library was in their development. How many best-selling books will now not be written because budding writers did not have access to a decent local library.”

For information please contact:

Dave Watson, Head of Bargaining and Campaigns, 07958 122 409
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, 0141 342 2877 or 07508 877 000

Note to editors:

1. UNISON is Scotland’s largest trade union representing 160,000 members working in the public sector in Scotland, including library staff in local council areas.

2. UNISON is supporting National Libraries Day on Saturday 9 February www.nationallibrariesday.org.uk

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