Public show support for British Library

Public show support for British Library and heritage

There was tremendous public support at a Prospect event outside the British Library on 14 October to highlight the impact of government spending cuts on heritage organisations in the UK.

Despite the changeable weather, there was a great atmosphere with dozens of Prospect’s 300-plus British Library branch members in attendance, waving flags and handing leaflets to the public.

In addition, people passing by were offered free books and free cakes, many of which had been specially baked by Prospect and British Library staff. The honking horns by supportive cab drivers and motorists added to everyone’s high spirits.

Practically everyone who stopped for a chat spoke of the value of the British Library, and the important role that such institutions play in public life.

However, in 2010 the British Library’s operational funding was cut by 15 per cent and by a further 5 per cent this year.

“What we are trying to tell the public is that the British Library is here, it’s free and it’s got all these wonderful treasures that you can go in and look at.  You can access documents online and you can also borrow books as well,” said Janet Ashton, branch chair.

“Given the effects of the government’s cuts, these services might not be here for much longer unless it stops now.

“Staff morale is at rock bottom because the cuts have an effect on terms and conditions. We now see the general economy improving and the government is upbeat about things getting better but all we see ahead of us are things getting worse.”

Ashton added that for every £1 invested, the British Library puts £5 back into the economy. 

“In the scheme of things, the amount of money spent on heritage compared to other government departments is minute, but it has a fantastic multiplier effect,” she said.

Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary, was also at the event.

He said, “It’s great to see our members at the British Library branch do something innovative to raise awareness. People walking along can see this activity and we’re pointing out the consequences of government cuts to the future of the British Library.”