Friday, February 05, 2016

The dismantling of Swindon 2 : Now they've come for our libraries

First it was leisure centres, then it was Lydiard, now it's the libraries.

The dismantling of Swindon's civic infrastructure has taken a frightening twist.

Swindon Borough Council wants to cut the budget for Swindon Libraries by 65% by 2020, and wants to save £300,000 in the next year. Eventually, it wants 14 of the 15 libraries to be run by volunteers, with the Central Library being the only SBC-funded library in the entire borough by 2020 (no doubt with less services in it than currently).

That's it. No other option, it would seem, is being entertained by SBC. 

Last year, Swindon Libraries loaned 1,013,108 books. That's 5 for every person in the borough.

Last year, Swindon Libraries had 1,049,172 people visit.

Out of 16 comparator authorities, Swindon Libraries came third for engaging with the public, placing Swindon 3rd for the number of active borrowers per 1,000 population.

Despite being a smaller library service, in the South West, Swindon Libraries is ranked 2nd for number of visits and 1st for the number of books issued.

Swindon Borough Councillors will talk endlessly about making the town better, about vague visions, aspirations and a town we can be proud of with a new museum and art gallery, a university, waves of private sector investment and a town centre that's nice to look at and be in.

Well here's a bit of our town that functions well, actually, better than well, excellently well when compared with library services in many other places and costs us each 3 pence a day. Yes, changes are needed, but cutting out a town's access to a high quality service that serves children, young families, students, the jobless, the socially isolated, the economically isolated, the geographically isolated, the uneducated, the education-hungry, the elderly, ethnic minorities, the poor, those with learning difficulties, those with dementia, the homeless, the new arrivals, visitors, those with low confidence but high hopes, the weak, the ill, the ambitious, the studious, the driven, the curious - the people of Swindon, is a cruel and cowardly act.

Who amongst our councillors will stand and fight against this and for all these people above? 

Do they have the guts? 

Because they certainly have the votes, because we elected them.

Our town's motto is 'Salubritas et Industria' translated as 'health and industry', a healthy town is an educated one, the Victorians knew that, but it appears Swindon Borough Council either doesn't understand it, or doesn't care. 

Maybe they need to visit a library for some help.

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