by Anna Mouser Jun 11th, 2013
As the literary elite head home from the Hay Festival, just down the road and out of the media glare, local campaigners have secured a victory in their fight to keep Herefordshire’s libraries open.
In just three weeks over 9,000 38 Degrees members signed a petition opposing council plans to cut an astounding 75% from the libraries budget and 100% from local museums. Hundreds took to the streets in protests, campaign videos were filmed in local libraries and councillors were left in no doubt how strongly people felt about the issue. This public pressure forced the council to hold an extraordinary meeting to debate the issue and to give over the floor to 38 Degrees petitioner John Perkins to make the case to keep libraries and museums open which he did to loud cheers.
What is interesting about the campaign is that it goes well beyond books. It champions the huge role libraries and museums play in bringing people together for cultural events, for day to day company, in providing public access to computers and even tourist information.
Whilst cuts have been shelved for now, Herefordshire still has an £8.4 million deficit to fill. Local campaigners are preparing to fight council attempts to make the cuts through the back door: whether it’s cutting opening hours, replacing staff with volunteers or selling off assets like the three Turner paintings the county owns.
38 Degrees members will be watching closely as the Herefordshire campaign enters this new phase. What started as a petition and a facebook page has become a local movement bringing diverse groups of people together. Watch this space to see how things develop.