Save Suffolk Libraries!

3 Apr

On March 5th, whilst holding our second ‘Save Rosehill’ protest, someone suggested that we should hold a march through Ipswich, for all Suffolk libraries. I agreed it was a good idea. Yesterday morning, when I woke up, one of my first thoughts was “what have we done?!”, closely followed by “what if nobody turns up?!”.

Sitting on the steps of Endeavour House at 10.30am, I was even more worried. I’d spoken to local newspapers, radio and television promising hundreds of people would turn up. There were 4 of us. I started a chant “what do we want?” “more than 4 people!” “when do we want it?” “before 11am!”.

I needn’t have worried. By 11am there were well over 200 people there, and we held the march back until 11.15am to make sure that everyone was there before we started – including a bus load of people from Eye!

We set off through the town, making a lot of noise, with some excellent banners. It was very exciting to stop traffic and take up the whole road with our march, I was genuinely amazed at how many people turned up! I walked from the back of the march to the front a few times, and every time I did it, it seemed to take me longer. We certainly gathered people as we went, ending up with over 300 people at Giles Circus.

I spoke to people from all across Suffolk, from the amazing young lady and her mum who had come from Lowestoft, despite not being comfortable in large crowds. I spoke to people who had travelled from Capel St Mary who are furious that the hub of their community is under threat of being taken away. I spoke to a family from Saxmundham, who has marched in Stradbroke in the rain and wanted to show their children that sometimes marches took place in the dry! I spoke to colleagues from work, who were there because they love the library service, not because I had nagged them in to it!

The children were brilliant, chanting, dressed up as their favourite book characters, holding home made banners, blowing whistles and speaking to the press as though it was something they did every day.

It was great to meet people that I’d only exchanged emails or tweets with – Felix, Guy, Anne – and to meet up again with James and Steve, both who gave brilliant speeches at Giles Circus. Roger Mackay organised the PA system for us, we would have been stuck without that, so huge thanks to him too.

The police had been supportive of our march from the moment we first approached them, and we can’t thank them enough for all the advice and help they gave us, and for their excellent humour on the day. Even if we couldn’t persuade them to take the police car through the County Library when the march snaked through.

County Library staff were more than accommodating of us, allowing us to march through the library, it was one of the highlights of the day, seeing the large banners being taken through the doors was highly entertaining, as was the way that everyone suddenly went very quiet….best library voices all round!

The speeches at Giles Circus were well received, Nicci Gerrard spoke of her love of libraries and it was a pleasure to have her march with us. Steve from Leiston, James from Stradbroke and John from Ixworth also spoke of their local campaigns, and the struggle that they are facing. I spoke briefly about my love of libraries and lead the crowd in three cheers for the library service – and the library users.

If you were there, thank you. If you took photographs or videos and would like to share them, please email them to me at saverosehill@gmail.com and I’ll put them up here.  There are more photographs and video at James’ Blog

 So what next? I’ll be spending this afternoon putting together evidence that we’ve gathered from across Suffolk, to send to the legal firm Leigh and Co, to see if we have a good case, as I’m convinced that Suffolk County Council are breaking the Public Libraries Act 1964 by introducing the divestment and closure of libraries. We’ll also be handing over the petition in May, more news on that as we have it.

Finally, if your local library is Rosehill, please join us at Alan Road Methodist Church on Wednesday 6th April at 7pm for a public meeting to move our campaign against the closures forward. Remember the public meeting we had before, where meeting chair Tory councillor Chris Stewart reminded us more than once that ‘this is not a protest meeting’? Well, come along on Wednesday, our meeting is very definitely a protest meeting!

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3 Responses to “Save Suffolk Libraries!”

  1. Borin Van Loon April 3, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    It really was an enjoyable experience and the weather was kind! Lots of people from different background, locations, (possibly political persuasions) and income groups all united in one cause. This really isn’t something which needs discussing and arguing over. Once the public library branches are closed, they will never reopen. In the overall scheme of things they cost next to nothing within this – as Jeremy Pembroke (happy retirement!) describes it – “one billion pound business” of Suffolk County Council. That’s a thousand million pounds, by my reckoning, so libraries and the three Record Offices – we mustn’t forget the excellent resource they provide – cost 0.896 of one per cent of the SCC budget.

    Congratulations to Abby and her crew from Rosehill Readers. These events take a lot of hard work and responsibility. Having printed off a clutch of flyers and given them to friends and colleagues, I was amazed to receive a flyer about the march in my home letterbox the day before it happened.

    There’s a long way to go with this but it’s a fine and ‘hope-inducing’ start. One Pembroke doth not a summer make, but let’s see what happens. As our banner proudly proclaimed in a misquote from The Manic Street Sweepers’ song ‘Design for life’: LIBRARIES GIVE US POWER. If they take them away, they disempower us.

    • Rosehill Readers April 3, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

      Borin – glad you enjoyed it. Although next time you pick on the Manics, I *will* have to come and have a word! 😉

  2. Yvie April 4, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I was so gutted that I couldn’t get a day off to join the march, this is something so importatnt I don’t understand why there is a need for us to try and save our libraries. There should be not threats to them at all!

    I am actually a graphic design student at Univeristy Campus Suffolk, doing a project on books and their importance….I would love to be able to contact you personally, and any of your fellow book-lovers to share your feelings on books.

    I’d love to hear from you soon,
    Yvie

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