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Campaign Launch Rally

Our new city-wide campaign, Birmingham Loves Libraries, is urging Birmingham City Council to rethink their plans to close the majority of the city’s libraries. Uniting library campaigns from across Birmingham, Birmingham Loves Libraries is calling for the city’s community libraries to remain open, publicly owned, and professionally staffed. We launched the campaign at a rally organised by the People’s Assembly Birmingham and UNISON outside the Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square on Monday 6th May.

Birmingham City Council’s unprecedented proposals to close the majority of its 36 libraries (and hand some over to unfunded volunteer groups) do not meet the legal requirement for a “comprehensive and efficient” public library service. We’re launching Birmingham Loves Libraries to bring together everyone who wants to protect and champion our libraries and the services they provide to the community. We want to say with one voice: keep our libraries open, public, and professionally staffed. We are asking people to join campaigns to keep their local library open, sign the Save Birmingham Libraries petition, and write to their councillors and MPs.

Our libraries are the beating heart of our communities. All over Britain, libraries are visited more than any other cultural service. They reach people regardless of income, age, or ethnicity. They are lifelines, especially in the wake of the pandemic and amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. As Rav Chohan, who has been campaigning to keep Handsworth Library open, explains, “Birmingham’s libraries sit at the heart of our communities and provide vital resources from education and digital inclusion to culture and well-being. At a time where people only face more cuts across their services, local libraries remain the only safe, open, and warm space offering people real support for free. They must be protected, and our local authorities must be properly funded by central government.”

A four year old at the rally calls for her library to stay open. Photo by Shaheen Ahmed.

Closing libraries will prove costly in the long run. As Elaine Jackson, of the Friends of Erdington Library, put it: “It is not a question of whether we can afford to retain all our libraries but whether current and future generations of Birmingham can afford to lose them.”

We are part of a growing movement against the devastating cuts to services facing Birmingham. Birmingham Loves Libraries has been founded in solidarity with all those fighting the cuts. As Rukhsana Malik, of Save Hall Green Library, explained, “The city-wide campaign to save libraries is a roar against austerity cuts. We will not allow our libraries to be crushed under the weight of budget cuts. It's time to rally, to roar, and to declare loudly that our libraries are invaluable, and we will not let them disappear without a fierce struggle.” And the name?

Well, as Emma Lochery of Friends of Kings Heath Library explained in her speech at the rally:

"Birmingham loves libraries. We chose this name to reflect how much our community libraries mean to the people of this city. Libraries, safe spaces, sanctuaries, offering a foothold in a new neighbourhood, a place where you need neither appointment nor money. A rare public space.

Birmingham loves libraries. We chose this name to remind ourselves that our campaigns against the cuts are also about making a claim to joy and love, to spaces and interactions that make us happy, that give us space to dream and learn and be human. We deserve joy in this city!"

Join us!

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