Some of my colleagues in the European Parliament have put forward a written declaration on the importance of libraries. The financial crisis has meant that many public services have been hit hard and unfortunately libraries have been the first to suffer.
This is tragic, because libraries are an incredibly important part of our communities, both educationally and socially. Also, as the written declaration points out, libraries are especially important for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society.
The European Union has made a commitment through its Horizon 2020 program to ensuring that as many people as possible have access to education through-out their lives. Horizon 2020 also has the stated aim of improving computer literacy in every strata of society. It seems to me that neither will be possible if we don’t have well-funded, flourishing libraries in our communities.
Here’s the main text of the written declaration 0016/2013:
- A 2013 survey of public library services across 18 European countries shows that nearly 100 million Europeans visited their public library and 14 million used it to access the internet last year;
- In the last 12 months 24 million Europeans (most frequently elderly people, members of ethnic minorities and people from rural areas) used their public library to engage in nonformal and informal learning activities;
- 83% of those using free public library computer and internet services reported a positive impact on their lives – saving time and money, improving skills, gaining access to government services and employment- and health-related resources;
- Last year 1.5 million Europeans applied for jobs and 250 000 found jobs using free library internet access;
- Public libraries represent the only source of free internet access for 1.9 million marginalised Europeans;
- The Commission is therefore called upon to recognise the essential services that public libraries provide to local communities and disadvantaged groups in relation to digital inclusion, social inclusion, lifelong learning and pathways to employment, and the role ofthose services in assisting with the delivery of the EU’s objectives;
I will be urging all my colleagues who have not done so already to sign the written declaration. I really hope this passes and we send a message to everyone about the importance of libraries. If you agree, then do write to your MEP and ask them to sign.