Earlier this month, the U.K.’s Northamptonshire Telegraph reported that several of the town’s public libraries were in danger of closure due to 2017 budget cuts. In response, the county council has given libraries in the north section of the county three options, all of which include hiring a volunteer staff and several library closures.
Children’s book author Rachel Campling has since brought the library crisis to Twitter. She grabbed the attention of How To Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell, and the two have started a Twitter storm proving that libraries are worth saving, all while providing information on how to save said doomed Northamptonshire libraries.
Demonstrations and protests have been held at Northamptonshire libraries, like Moulton Library, to persuade the council to change its mind.
Yet, what’s happening in Northamptonshire is only a small example of what the future looks like for public libraries across the U.K. and the United States. In 2016, BBC reported that, since 2010, “8,000 jobs in U.K. libraries have disappeared.” In fact, the number of paid staff members dropped 25% in six years.
During that same 6-year period, over 15,500 volunteers were recruited to work at U.K. libraries, and over 340 libraries closed their doors for good. The BBC expects that another 111 libraries will close in 2017.
Unfortunately, Northamptonshire is seeing that prediction realized.
Although library closures are not happening at such a fast rate in the U.S., organizations here face a similar fate. EveryLibrary.org reported that communities in Oregon and North Carolina have announced several library closures, respectively. And Chicago school budget cuts are affecting the already dismal state of public school libraries — only a quarter of which have school librarians.
In March 2017, President Trump also announced federal funding cuts for U.S. public libraries — even though a 2016 Pew Research Center study concluded that 66% of Americans feel that the closure of their public library would negatively impact their community and their families.
But Twitter users are determined to prove to their governments that public and school libraries are crucial for their communities.
Especially in the face of those who disagree.
Public libraries are a place for people to convene, learn, and fall in love with reading. It will take a lot of noise and public action, but most Americans and U.K.-dwellers alike will agree that free literacy is not something that should be up for closure debate.