Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Talking about the Campaign for the Book

1651870_3217b5192d Thanks to Dawn Endico on Flickr for the beautiful book picture.

According to my mum, I only had one major temper tantrum as a child and it was over a library book.  It seems that regardless of the fact that the book belonged to the library and I was only allowed to borrow it, I had no intention of giving the book back. Struggles ensued, feet were stamped, it was messy… I forget the details.  But I do remember having to get special permission to be issued with an adult library ticket at a ridiculously young age because I had read and re-read all the books in the children’s section. The library played an enormous part in my childhood and I can clearly remember the joyous feeling of opening up the front cover to reveal a blank ticket in the sleeve… the book was to be mine first.

This is one of the reasons why I want to talk to you today about the Campaign for the Book.  This campaign was started by Alan Gibbons, a prize winning author for children and young adults.  I want to quote you a bit from this article in the Bookseller

It started with a phone call. The Save the Libraries Campaign in Doncaster asked me to speak. On a hot July evening I addressed a packed upstairs room in the town, setting out the role reading had played in my life and offering my support.
The son of a farm labourer and a shop assistant, I was lucky enough to get hooked on books early. My love of reading took me to the University of Warwick, a career in teaching and now a second career as a children’s author. In this capacity I visit 150 schools and libraries a year and my lectures take me to Cyprus, Switzerland, China, France, Spain, Singapore, Bahrain and Brazil to name just a few of the more exciting destinations.
Two weeks after that meeting Helena Pielichaty and I addressed several hundred local people protesting at cuts to the library budget. I emailed many of my friends and colleagues in the book world and sent a statement to the Doncaster press. That’s when the horror stories started to pour in. There was the national expert on children’s literature, who had her pay cut by £7,000. There was the librarian whose head teacher closed the library and axed her job. There was the school library that boxed up all the books and turned the room into an ICT suite.

It doesn’t take much Googling to come up with more stories of the effects of the budget cuts to our school library services, for example from The Times Higher Education

What is called “efficiency savings” is achieved through the loss of librarians’ jobs, reduced access to resources by teachers, reduced acquisition of stock and the “delay” in the development of online facilities. These deletions and closures will “save” £98,000 knowing that there will be “reduction in service”. For small schools, the Resource Centre has supplemented local collections, using the expertise of SLS staff to develop materials and foster a love of reading. For specialist needs, such as borrowing books for students with dyslexia and developing a commitment to reading through the Highland Book Awards, this single decision to “save” £98,000 will have consequences on reading and writing for a generation. For those homes without books, let alone broadband, library resources are crucial to disadvantaged students in education. But even an expansive personal library and internet connection cannot teach information literacy.

Alan Gibbons, on his blog has collated countless examples of job cuts, funding cuts and lack of resources for school Libraries.  I was horrified to read that twenty five councils in the UK spend less than 1% of their total library funding on children’s books.  Spending on books has reduced this year for the third year in a row, but spending on DVD’s has increased. Thirty eight libraries were closed in 2008. And in Warwickshire there is even talk of Libraries being moved to supermarkets and staffed by volunteers in order to dramatically slash the cost of staffing them.

In the UK this year, it has been the National Year of Reading, a year in which we should be celebrating the book and promoting literature as much as we possibly can.  A recent study showed that reading for pleasure has more impact on a child’s educational achievement than their family’s wealth or social class and yet when budgets are being cut it seems that books and the people who know about them are the first to go. It’s now thought that replacing books with computers is an acceptable course of action, that kids can just Google the answers to their questions without having to ask anyone… an all round cheaper solution.  But what about social interraction?  What about learning about researching properly, taking time to read all about your subject, not just typing in exactly what you need before copy and pasting the answer?  This Virtual Eve (yes, I do look like that!*!) gives me the chills.

The remit of the Campaign for the Book is simple, and it’s aims are clearly outlined in its Charter which has been signed by many well known authors, (including Philip Pullman, Michael Rosen, Anne Fine, Jacqueline Wilson) and Publishers and Teachers and Librarians and Booksellers and… well, anyone who wants to get involved and help support the cause.

We, the signatories of this Charter commit ourselves to campaigning for the following:

1. The central place of reading for pleasure in society.

2. A proper balance of book provision and Information Technology in public and school libraries. We welcome the integration of new technologies but believe that they must not erode the key place of books and the need for a healthy and expanding book stock.

3. The defence of public libraries and librarians from attempts to cut spending in a ‘soft’ area.

4. An extension of the role of the school librarian and a recognition of the school library as a key engine of learning. All staff employed in school libraries to have access to appropriate and adequate support and training.

5. The recruitment of more school librarians. It is a national scandal that less than a third of secondary schools has a trained librarian.

6. The defence of the professional status of the public and school librarian. We oppose downgrading. In some places this has reduced librarians’ salaries by up to half.

7. A higher profile for reading for pleasure in schools, including shadowing book awards, inviting authors and illustrators to visit, developing school creative writing magazines.

8. To support the sustainability and future development of Schools Library Service provision nationally.

9. To promote a more positive reading culture in school, in which the reading of whole books is preferred to studying extracts alone

I’ve only given you the tip of the iceberg here.  Much more can be found on Alan Gibbons Blog and just by a little light surfing you’ll find all sorts of information on the internet. Please try to support this cause as much as you can.  Join the Facebook group, where you’ll find all the information you need about how the campaign is going and how you can get involved.  Read about it, learn about what’s going on and tell people… any people that’ll listen (and if they don’t, then make them!).  Show your support to your local library, especially within schools and hopefully if enough people know what the Government and Local Authorities are up to, they’ll have no choice but to start investing in the book.

Thank you for listening Kiss

About Eve Harvey

Eve Harvey is a bookaholic. She is forever to be found with her nose in a book. If there are none around then newspapers, magazines, the back of cereal packets, road signs or the tiny washing labels found on the seams of jumpers will do. Eve used to have full time job as a children's bookseller and she was the very first Waterstone's Children's Expert Bookseller in Scotland. Her first love was definitely literature for children and teens, about which she has nerd-level knowledge. However she has since become involved in grown-up books and has co-written her first adult novel with Cath Murphy. Eve and Cath Podcast, blog and have far too much fun on their website Domestic Hell. Eve lives in a field just outside Edinburgh in Scotland with her daughter and son and two dogs and two rabbits. She also has some tanks of tropical fish and vows one day to start up a marine aquarium. And the day she signs her very first publishing deal she is going to celebrate by buying a pair of Horsefields tortoises. You can find Eve through her Agent, Ella Kahn at DKW Literary Agency. She's also on Twitter or on her website : EveHarvey.com

5 comments on “Talking about the Campaign for the Book

  1. Jackie
    December 13, 2008

    Well, this is certainly a lot of upsetting information. I had no idea things were so dire. It’s utter stupidity to close libraries & cut out librarians. As far as replacing books with computers, I don’t think it’s an even trade. Books have proper spelling and grammar, which is often mangled online, depending on what types of sites & communication methods are used. And I doubt that a computer can compare with reading an actual book with a little child, there’s a cuddling sense of bonding that can’t be achieved any other way. Not to mention the tactile satisfaction of a book for someone of any age. I really hope this trend can be reversed and I thank Mr. Gibbons for his efforts in telling people what’s going on.I’ll definitely be joining that Facebook group you mentioned.
    Btw, enjoyed the stories of Little Eve with the library books. Cute. And a person after my own heart.

  2. Jackie
    December 13, 2008

    Forgot to say how pretty the rainbow books on the shelves is. Nifty effect.

  3. Moira
    December 13, 2008

    Well, that made really depressing and infuriating reading. Up here in the remote north-west they seem to think that living in a beautiful part of the world is good enough. There’s been a massive cutback in the mobile library service, which means that although the library van goes straight past our house it can’t stop because insufficient people would use it. (That’s a Catch 22 for you … it doesn’t stop because there aren’t enough people using it, but they can’t use it if it doesn’t stop … so any new users in the area are basically stuffed. The result is that my 87 year old mother now has to rely on me to get her to the nearest library, 8 miles away, for as long as THAT’S open. Gee, thanks guys.

  4. RosyB
    December 14, 2008

    I’ve been using my local library quite a lot recently to work in and have been quite surprised at how very well-used it is. It seems to have a lot of people and kids and events and all sorts going on. It’s a nice calm place and warm in the horrible winter months! I wonder how typical that use is. Of course it is a use that probably doesn’t generate much cash. But surely that’s the whole point of services.

    I wish it wasn’t always this war between books and computers. Seems to me that both can coexist in libraries and in the outside world as well, surely? Both are useful tools used in conjunction or separately.

  5. Dark Puss
    December 14, 2008

    I haven’t bought a non-work related book for almost two years now. This decision also coincided with a desire to take up reading novels again, so I am borrowing about 50 a year from my local library. I have been a committed supporter for many years, have taken part in campaigns (successful I am happy to report) to save my local branch library, and urge (tediously I fear) my literate friends and on-line weblog acquaintances to borrow, not buy, when possible. I, and they, can easily afford to buy books on-line or from bookshops etc. but I’m keen to ensure that facilities exist for the people who are much less fortunate than I am to enjoy literature for free.

    Dark Puss

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2008 by in Entries by Eve and tagged , , , , , .

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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