Let’s Talk Libraries: what a library really means

Library user reads Journal article in Dinnington Library. Photo by Simon Veit-Wilson.

Library user reads Journal article in Dinnington Library. Photo by Simon Veit-Wilson.

National Libraries Day: taking over the libraries on Saturday 9 February from 10.30am

The writers we commissioned for Let’s Talk Libraries – Ann Cleeves, Mari Hannah, Fiona Evans, David Almond and Michael Chaplin – were so affected by the stories of the people they met in these libraries that they’ve galvanised support from other writers, artists, actors and musicians on Tyneside to inhabit threatened libraries for an hour of fun on National Libraries Day.

The aim is to show the council and government how much libraries have to offer, and how much we value them.

On Saturday 9 February (National Libraries Day), libraries across Newcastle will be filled with activity for one hour from 10.30am, including these special events:

CRUDDAS PARK: special crime events with Ann Cleeves and Val McDermid, artist Emma Holiday and music by the Cornshed Sisters.

FENHAM: led by playwright Fiona Evans with special performances by actors Charlie Hardwick, Chelsea Halfpenny, Laura Norton and Zoe Lambert and screenwriter Karin Young.

HIGH HEATON: led by writer Valerie Laws with actress Libby Davison, children’s writers Alan Gibbons and Josephine Scott, and music by Jill Heslop’s Ribbon Road folk singers amongst others.

Also hosting events are Dinnington, Denton Burn, Blakelaw, Newbiggin Hill, Jesmond, Walker and Moorside libraries.

Please come along and spend time in these libraries during our hour of fun at 10.30am on Saturday 9 February, and show the council how much our libraries are worth to their communities.


What a library really means

At the end of 2012, Newcastle City Council proposed radical cutbacks to the library service in Newcastle, meaning that a number of libraries could close and that those remaining would have their book budget severely reduced. There are also proposed 100% cuts to cultural and heritage funding. You can read full details of the proposals, and have your say if you’re a Newcastle resident, here.

New Writing North, the writing and reading development agency for the north of England, wanted to find a way to articulate the value of libraries to those who use them and their wider communities.

So, we got in touch with local writers – writers who all say their libraries played a pivotal role in their development as young readers and in their careers as writers. Libraries now play a vital role in getting their books out to readers, and giving the writers spaces to work and undertake research for new books or plays.

Five writers from the North East were approached and all agreed to take part.

They each visited one of the libraries which is facing closure, and spent time speaking to staff and those using the libraries to see what they got out of the experience. They also asked their opinions on the cuts.

The writers have captured the feel, heart and uses of local libraries and profiled the people who use them. Many of the people who would lose out are the most vulnerable in society and the people the writers spoke to, both staff and customers, all expressed their sheer incomprehension at the library no longer being available. Contrary to the council’s hope that those users would travel to another library if their local one is closed, very few felt able to do so, for a host of reasons from the financial to lack of mobility.

We’ll be publishing the five articles on this blog. We’ve published Ann Cleeves’ piece on Cruddas Park library already, in advance of her speaking at the Save Newcastle Libraries rally on Wednesday 9 January at the Assembly Rooms in Newcastle.

The rest will be published once a day from Monday 14 January, in this order:

Monday 14 January: Mari Hannah visits Denton Burn Library
Tuesday 15 January: Michael Chaplin visits Jesmond Library
Wednesday 16 January: David Almond visits Dinnington Library
Thursday 17 January: Fiona Evans visits Fenham Library

Our hope is that that these pieces will show the council the value of our libraries, and encourange them to re-think their proposals.

If the council goes ahead with the closures, these five pieces will have captured a moment in history, leaving a legacy and celebrating a time when we valued reading, education and accessibility to knowledge for all.

Thanks for reading and please support your local libraries.

New Writing North