Save and support library and cultural services

UNISON Local Government Conference 2018

UNISON will take its campaign to save and support library and cultural services to our politicians, our members and our communities, highlighting the importance of these services to our communities. The campaign will look for branches to lobby their politicians, encourage their members and their communities to use the libraries and other cultural services such as museums and public parks, and to get their councils to sign up to a new cultural charter.

Margaret Gallacher moved the South Lanarkshire motion, explaining how important a role libraries and librarians play in this modern age helping us to filter the information overload and to help develop our critical thinking, “Perhaps if librarians were called information officers people would understand their role better and therefore understand their importance.”

“We need libraries and librarians to help us pick our way through fake news and misinformation. Libraries also play an important part in raising literacy. They are trusted spaces, open to all, where we can explore reading, share information and deepen our knowledge of the world. Libraries enable equal reading and learning opportunities.”

Margaret told us that museums too are inclusive community spaces.”Without museums we lose tangible links to the past. They give us enlightenment and entertainment, social cohesion, and tourism. They boost our mental health and wellbeing. They nurture talent and creativity. They give us less anti-social behaviour, more empathy and understanding and a pride in our heritage and surroundings.“

She explained that open spaces improve our quality of life by lifting our spirits, giving us “healthy habitats for humans, wildlife and plants. Every tree reducing air pollution and the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and helping cool cities. Resulting in better general health, reduced stress, and reduced depression.”

Margaret slammed closures in libraries, museums and other cultural facilities in some authorities, and drastically reduced staffing in most other authorities with more lone working, more casual staff and zero hours and volunteers, “To get quality services you need specialised staff but many cultural venues are now in arms length organisations and trusts where the emphasis is on income generation and where services are more likely to be run by casual staff or volunteers.”

Margaret quoted well known author and staunch supporter of libraries, Neil Gaiman, “Libraries really are the gates to the future. It is unfortunate that round the world we observe local authorities seizing the opportunity to close libraries as an easy way to save money, without realising that they are stealing from the future to pay for today. They are closing the gates that should be open.  A world without libraries and culture would be an impoverished one,”