This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post
Swansea library service is a success story. In 2017-18, the last year for which figures are available, 1.3 million people visited their local library. Only seven of the 22 local authorities in Wales had more library visits per 1,000 head of population than Swansea.
Libraries are about so much more than books. A Welsh Assembly report stated that ‘Libraries are unique in their contribution to so many areas of community life, including education, health and wellbeing, tackling poverty and social exclusion.’
That report highlighted excellent examples of work being undertaken by libraries across Wales in relation to digital inclusion.
Enabling people who have no access to computers to use the internet is a key part of the service our libraries offer. It gives them access to benefits such as universal credit, job opportunities and many other sources of information as well as developing ICT skills
Every time I go into my local library, I notice that the computers are fully occupied, and people are reading the magazines and newspapers as well as borrowing books.
It was a disappointment therefore to learn that the ruling Labour Administration are proposing to cut the opening hours of community libraries to save just £35,000 out of a total council budget of £445 million next year. A Welsh Liberal Democrats amendment to reverse this cut was voted down.
We need to invest in our libraries, not limit access to them. This particular budget cut will have a greater impact on social cohesion than they realise.