Since it became clear that Labour’s cuts posed a threat to 16 libraries throughout Fife, I have been perplexed, desperately trying to understand why they would decide to cut such a vital community service.
During the final year of my History degree, I relied on many of the libraries throughout Fife. And Glenwood Library was one location where I could normally be found. I was usually seated in the corner of the library with my head stuck in local newspapers while studying the social history of 1960s and 1970s Scotland. I would have been lost without this resource.
Throughout the long days and nights spent in these libraries I witnessed first-hand those who used the local service and I wondered why they were there. Everyone had a different story; no two visitors were the same.
Visitors varied from members of our older generations taking arranged classes to become computer literate, to people of all ages using the IT services to search for employment. And from people like myself, researching our own history, be it for personal or educational reasons, to children visiting after school to complete their homework, or to parents taking their kids to Bookbug sessions.
Like pirate radio, it seems that to Fife Council, our local libraries are nothing more than remnants of the past. And, arguably, the proposed closures shows the extent to which Fife Council are completely out of touch with the needs of our community. Libraries are not businesses to be judged by their economic value. They are community and cultural centres, places where people can learn, meet, and grow. Their value may be harder to ascertain, but it is no less real.
One quarter of children in Glenrothes West and Kinglassie are living in poverty, and only 33.6% of Ward 14 school leavers go into Higher Education. Libraries can play a key role in our fight against poverty. They are gateways to learning, and learning is a pathway out of poverty. Closing libraries is the complete opposite of what we should be doing. We should be investing in libraries—in reading groups, classes, areas for teenagers—not cutting back.
Let’s use our campaigning experience to make this argument to Fife Council: Hands off our libraries!