Libraries Connected is urging the Government not to “take libraries for granted” as they cope with increased demand resulting from the cost-of-living crisis.
A recent survey of 32 heads of library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland conducted by Libraries Connected revealed that over 80% expect an increase in people using libraries to keep warm next winter. This has the potential to place extra pressure on library staff.
Public libraries offer critical support for the most vulnerable with a warm, dry space and toilets and phone charging facilities. These make them a haven for homeless people during the day. However, given the escalating crisis and the potential for it to worsen this winter, the Government must be aware of the need for commensurate funding so they can carry out this social function.
Already, 44% of the services surveyed have experienced increased demand for services supporting people through the crisis. These included information on personal finance and budgeting, help reducing household bills and practical support accessing food and clothing. Over a third (38%) have introduced new services specifically to help people cope with the crisis.
Isobel Hunter MBE, chief executive of Libraries Connected, said:
“Libraries are thriving community hubs with a presence in every high street and town centre, so they are uniquely placed to support people in challenging times. As with the pandemic, libraries have been quick to identify and respond to the cost-of-living crisis - once again demonstrating their vital role in addressing big societal challenges.”
“But libraries must not be taken for granted. This briefing presents a snapshot of where we are now, before the crisis has really hit. Library services are ready and willing to respond but they must be adequately funded and supported to fulfil this vital community role.”