April 4th, 2016

carnegie occupation: save libraries!

You know the library closure situation is bad when people are actually locking themselves into doomed libraries and refusing to leave. That's exactly what's happening with the #CarnegieOccupation and these people have been in the Carnegie Library in the Herne Hill-Loughborough Junction area of southeast London for five days and are not planning to leave until it's saved from Lambeth Council-led ideas of turning it into a gym.

When I visited today, the protesters at the front gate explained to me that there are lots of gyms in the area, and this library was given to the people by Carnegie, not the council; they claim the council have no right to take it away from them. They said that the council thought they could leave some shelves with books, and still call that a library - 'a healthy living centre with a self-service neighbourhood library' are the words on the council library website - but the book area would be unstaffed. They were frustrated that the council was trying to call this book area a library, arguing that a space with books isn't a library unless there are librarians present. (Too right!)

I wasn't sure if the occupiers would have enough to eat after five days, but when I got there, I saw that the community have been great about keeping them stocked up with food and toiletries. What they need most is publicity for the cause, so the Carnegie Library and others don't quietly disappear. The council and the government need to realise libraries are a BIG DEAL in their communities, and they need MORE funds to stay up to date with modern times, not budget slashing and closures.

Here's a poster I drew for the protest, based on a poster I'd designed earlier (which you can download free here). Some people argue that the Internet makes libraries irrelevant; you can find information and buy books cheaply online. But if you plonk a kid in front of a computer to do their homework, they're not going to know how to find good information other than what Wikipedia and Google turn up. How can they know which sources are helpful and reliable, or do more than copy and paste? How will they even know what 'a reliable source' means?

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