Top authors organise protest over Haringey Council's library changes
PUBLISHED: 14:28 07 September 2017 | UPDATED: 14:46 07 September 2017
Almost 60 authors including Michael Rosen, Neil Gaiman and Meg Rosoff are to stage a protest over fears librarians are under threat.
In a letter sent to the Ham&High and printed below children’s and young adult writers remind Haringey Council of the value of librarians in reponse to recent changes in librarians’ job titles to library and customer service assistant.
The authors fear library staff will be diverted from their specialist role to advise young readers, choose stock and organise events.
In the letter the writers, which also include SF Said, Sita Brahmachari and Ros Asquith, state the service librarians provide is “not less vital, but arguably much more so,” before going on to announce a “Day of Action” outside Wood Green Library on Saturday.
The poets, illustrators and novelists add Haringey has “a good record” on keeping libraries open in spite of government cuts, but go on to say librarians “form the heart of the library service”.
The letter adds to pressure on the council already facing opposition to plans to relocate Highgate Library in Shepherds Hill.
In response to the writers cabinet member for culture cllr Bernice Vanier said: “Unlike many parts of the country where libraries have been closed down, opening hours slashed and services stripped to the bone, we’ve continued to support and invest in libraries.
“Contrary to rumours on social media, we’ve not removed any of our children’s librarians.
“Last year, in order to adapt to existing and future challenges we introduced new universal job titles for staff in libraries and customer services.
“We’re delighted all of our dedicated children’s librarians have stayed working in Haringey and continue to look after children’s provision as well as some general library admin tasks, just like before,” she added.
The authors’ letter states:
“We are all children’s and Young Adult authors, alarmed at the way cuts are being implemented in the Haringey library service – particularly the removal of all dedicated children’s librarians.
Our children’s librarians played an essential role in our community, especially for young readers in schools that have no library of their own.
As well as choosing stock, reading widely and advising teens, younger children and their parents, these librarians coordinated author visits to local schools, ran mother and baby groups, and Chatterbooks children’s reading groups.
All this requires specialist knowledge, expertise and dedication.
There were 5 children’s librarians across the borough: now there are none.
Haringey holds a good record for keeping libraries open in the face of government cuts – but it is the librarians themselves that form the heart of the library service.
In the digital age, their service is not less vital, but arguably much more so: this is especially true where children’s librarians are concerned.
What Haringey has done is something akin to replacing a heart surgeon with an overstretched part-time GP.
Re-stocking has slackened, opening hours are to be cut...what will follow?
In November 2016 some of us met with Judith Walker, head of libraries and customer service, and discussed our concerns: alas, our efforts have evidently had no impact.
But we’re not giving up!
Local residents are invited to join us for our Day Of Action at 10.30am this Saturday, September 9, outside Wood Green Library, 187-197A High Road, N22 6XD.
Signed: Michael Rosen, SF Said, Neil Gaiman, Sita Brahmachari, Emer Stamp, Piers Torday, Karen McCombie, Abi Elphinstone, Non Pratt, Ros Asquith , Fiona Dunbar, Philip Ardagh, Justine Windsor, Daniel Whelan, Kaye Umansky, Polly Faber, Keren David, Jane Ray, Gill Lewis, Em Lynas, Matt Brown. Conrad Mason, Justin Somper, Alan Gibbons, Philip Womack, Nicole Burstein, Nell Phoenix, Lou Kuenzler, Jonathan Meres, Norman Bailey, Steve Barlow, Steve Skidmore, Chrissie Gittins, Vanessa Harbour, AM Dassu, Anthony McGowan, Nicola Morgan, Linda Newbery, Leslie Wilson, Andy Stanton, Daniel Hahn, John Shelley, Mary Hoffman, Ann Jungman, Michelle Harrison, Tamsyn Murray, Mo O’Hara, Ruth Fitzgerald, Ruth Warburton, Penny Dolan, Ciaran Murtagh, Sarah McIntyre, Meg Rosoff, Inbali Iserles, Gillian Philip, K.M. Lockwood, Swapna Haddow