Amber and Poppy Ash from Reading Activists Croydon, report from the Libraries Lobby:
On Tuesday 13th March the 'Libraries Lobby' took place in the Westminster Central Hall attracting hundreds of people including members of the general public, library campaigners, authors, librarians and library staff and celebrities who all gathered to Speak Up for Libraries.
The day started with live feed of the CMS enquiry into library closures on a huge screen.
This was followed by speeches by organisations such as CILIP, the Women's Institute and Unison, authors - Philip Ardagh, Kate Mosse and Alan Gibbons, and library campaigners- Ian Clark spoke for Voices for the Library, Andrew Coburn and Laura Swaffield for The Library Campaign, and individual library campaigners Mar Dixon from Shropshire and Elizabeth Ash from Croydon.
There were even a couple of musical performances concerning the fight for libraries - One Man and his Beard and the lead from Doyle and the Fourfathers - our personal favourite!
The hall was buzzing with activity with the organisations involved exhibiting, library campaigns from areas around the country, a pop up library, The Book Trust with Book Trust Bear and The Reading Agency.
The one thing that all of the people attending had in common was that they valued their local libraries, libraries in general and the benefits they can bring for those who can't afford books and those who just love to read or need access to information and learning. Some argue that society no longer has substantial need for libraries with the growth in the use of internet sources. However for some the library is the only place they can get access to the internet, a place to study or access to books. The local libraries are also important for education purposes.
We live in a house overflowing with books and all have access to the internet at home but we borrow books for our homework and for pleasure very regularly as it is not possible to have every bit of information you need to hand!
We later spoke at length to Justin Tomlinson MP, Chair of the APPG on Libraries, on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament about the values of libraries. He seemed to understand the necessity for cuts to be made, however agreed with us that the library services play a vital part in local communities.
He spoke with us about the important roles of qualified librarians, and the irreplaceable assistance and guidance they give. He agreed with us when we argued that qualified librarians cannot be replaced by volunteers and that the expertise they offer is invaluable. That is not to say that volunteers cannot add value to a library service.
This was followed by a rushed meeting in the Central Lobby with our own MP Richard Ottaway. He really spoke mainly with our mother but told us this was "democracy in action".
We are grateful to Riddlesdown Collegiate for authorising leave for us to attend this event, as we feel that it was an important learning experience. We would also like to thank Justin Tomlinson MP for taking the time to listen to our opinions.
We would also like to mention Philip Ardagh, who has encouraged our efforts on Twitter, our blogs, and met with us on the day. It would be really great if you could attend a library event in Croydon someday, and we really appreciate your support.
Thanks to the Reading Agency Reading Activists project, without which, we wouldn't have all of the knowledge about social media that we have used to speak up for libraries! It has helped us with our tweeting and blogging, and we both now have our own blogs.
You might also be interested in this library-themed fruit-based blog-post created by Poppy.
Amber and Poppy Ash