I wrote about my horror at Newcastle’s plans to make drastic cuts to its library and arts funding in a previous post and I’ve been meaning to do something about it ever since. I’m a supporter too of Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, which is based in Newcastle and will lose something like 13% of its total funding if the council carries out its proposal to withdraw its entire grant.
Seven Stories has information about the cuts on its site and you can find out more about the libraries campaign from Save Newcastle Libraries. I also like the Let’s talk Libraries page where local authors go out into branches, including Fenham which I used as a child, and talk to the people using them about the difference libraries make to their lives and what they would miss if they closed. There’s a consultation going on until 1st February, email firstname.lastname@example.org to take part, and today I’ve submitted the following letter.
Dear Newcastle City Council,
I am writing in response to your budget consultation proposal to cut 100% of your funding to the independent cultural organisations in Newcastle, including Seven Stories, and to close 10 libraries. Although I no longer live in Newcastle, I grew up there and regularly used Fenham Library, one of those ear-marked for closure. I have also followed the progress of Seven Stories since the very inception of the idea, have visited and am a regular donor. I believe the cuts in both areas to be disproportionate.
Libraries – I credit Fenham Library with a large part in shaping my life. The staff and stock helped kindle my interest in history (which I later studied at University) and in the processes involved in managing a library (my future career). That was four decades ago, but I am interested to read the personal stories at www.letstalklibraries.com which show that Fenham and other Newcastle libraries are still changing people’s lives in similar ways. A healthy network of libraries is necessary to an educated and informed population because:
- Not everything is online
- Not everyone can afford to be online or to buy their own books
- Not every child is lucky enough to come from a home where books and education are important. Many research studies have shown that children who enjoy reading are better equipped to realise their learning and creative potential
- Not everyone is fit enough to travel longer distances to libraries, or can afford the transport costs to do so
Seven Stories – The cultural life of Newcastle is the envy of much of the UK and creates jobs and investment by encouraging tourists to visit and businesses to set up in the city. I have read that £1 invested in culture can generate £4 for the local economy, and Seven Stories is a very good example of this. I no longer have family or friends in Newcastle and had not visited for almost two decades, but have been back twice in recent years. Even though I knew the city had changed, I was amazed at the scale of the improvements and would be sad to see this lost. I would definitely come back and have recommended it to other people as a destination with Seven Stories as a must-see for anyone with children and / or interested in children’s books. As well as being a tourist attraction, it:
- Brings prestige to Newcastle by recently being named the National Centre for Children’s Books
- Holds unique collections and protects our literary heritage for children
- Does valuable outreach with local children, working with 85% of Newcastle’s schools. This ties in with my remarks about libraries above
I know the City Council must make cuts because of UK government policy, and I don’t expect the Council’s funding of culture and libraries to be an exception, but the proposals are too much. 100% of a very small portion of your overall budget will save very little anyway, but if you lose these places you will never get them back and Newcastle will cease to be the vibrant, dynamic city it has developed into. I beg you to reconsider.