A crowd of Swindon’s library supporters gathered on the steps of the Council Chambers in Euclid Street on Thursday evening, 14 April
Supporters of all ages backgrounds demonstrated in front of the Swindon Borough Council offices, showing their level of commitment to the town’s libraries.
Two of the youngest library campaigners had designed and made their own Save Swindon’s Libraries T-shirts.
Speeches were made by many of the campaigners about why local libraries must be kept accessible for all of Swindon’s residents, and the value of professional library staff, including a speech by local resident Robert Stredder from Shakespeare’s Henry II.
The demonstration was followed by public questions and the presentation of the petition to the Full Council Meeting. This petition had 2928 signatures after six weeks of campaigning. Five of the six public questions related to libraries and the same response came in answer that a draft strategy would be released in June.
Chair of Save Swindon’s Libraries, Sarah Church, gave a speech calling on the Council to safeguard local, publicly funded professional libraries, drawing on her own experiences as a former soldier, parent and school governor. The speech was received with loud applause from the public gallery.
In response to the debate that followed, Sarah said, “Some of our points are clearly being taken on board and we welcome the promise that no libraries will be closed in the next 12 months. However, it was disappointing to see how party politics rules the day in Council.
“No Conservative councillor has voted to use the transitional funding they have been given for the express purpose of alleviating the impact of budget cuts, for the libraries. I cannot believe that they are speaking with the best interests of their ward residents in mind.”
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member responsible for libraries, said: “So far the engagement process has been going very well with lots of constructive chates in groups. I don’t really understand Save Swindon’s Libraries position as the council has its hands tied as far as the budget is concerned, so not engaging with us on principle is not really going to do much good for Swindon’s libraries in the long term. It’s better to work together.”