Readers in protest against council plans to slash library staff

Portsmouth library staff protest at the cuts to library services. (left to right), Sue Varley, Johanna Jones, Helen Bolton, Wendy-May Jacobs
Portsmouth library staff protest at the cuts to library services. (left to right), Sue Varley, Johanna Jones, Helen Bolton, Wendy-May Jacobs
Picture: SWNS

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CAMPAIGNERS gathered yesterday to ‘throw the book’ at city leaders over plans to sack staff and cut services.

But the 60 protesters didn’t read the riot act, preferring instead to stage a peaceful ‘read-in’ outside Portsmouth’s Central Library yesterday lunchtime.

Members of the council’s library and museums staff organised the event, at which they were joined by book groups, library users and other members of the public concerned by Portsmouth City Council’s plans.

Patricia Garrett, one of the librarians present, said: ‘I’m an e-development librarian at Central Library and I’ve been told my job’s under threat. But it’s not just about that. We believe the city’s libraries will find it hard to provide a good service to the public if people with experience are laid off.

‘It’s not a criticism of younger members of staff, as they are talented and enthusiastic, but this move will just throw away years of expertise. It’s totally unfair that hard working, dedicated professionals are having their careers taken away because of a financial crisis that’s nothing to do with them.’

The council is reacting to a cut of £15m from its budget this year. It agreed budget measures to ensure all its libraries and museums will stay open, but says other cuts are necessary. Proposals include closing all the city’s museums all day every Monday, closing the Central Library every Friday, and cutting 22 ‘full time equivalent’ posts, to save around £650,000.

A consultation on the redundancies came to an end yesterday, and the council’s head of library services will make an announcement about which jobs, and how many, will be cut on April 25.

Youngsters also gathered to protest against the plans.

Renny Davenport, 13, said: ‘I’m home schooled so I come to this library for a supply of books. It’s a very good resource and provides for educational needs. It’s really valuable and the staff are good, so I’m here to let the council know.’

The protesters carried books, but set them aside for a short poetry reading, including one by young Portsmouth poet Joanne Blandford.

She said: ‘I have a learning disability and the library has been a great place for me to come. It has so much more information than anywhere else and it’s very wrong to cut back library services.’