Support our Libraries: Protesters gather for 'read in' outside Edinburgh library amid closures

A protest has been held outside Leith Library in the Capital against the closure of Scotland’s public libraries.

Library users gathered outside the facility on Saturday morning.

The facility has been closed and used as a Covid testing centre throughout the pandemic - but it is now earmarked to reopen around April. It is one of five public libraries across Edinburgh that has been repurposed during the pandemic.

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The event was organised by Labour candidate for Leith Walk, Katrina Faccenda, after hearing the continued closure of Leith Library was a key concern for constituents.Speaking about why she decided to organise the event, and why public libraries mean so much to her, she said: "When we started campaigning in January one of the issues which kept coming up was not only the continued closure of the library but how much library provision across the north of the city has been hit by cuts over the years.

Photo credit Oliver Goulden

"I still remember the library van which I visited as a child and the excitement of choosing new books to read.

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"I started to plan the "read in" before the reopening was announced and my inspiration was the community activists in Glasgow who got their libraries reopened, some of which were under risk of closure.

"But the more I read about public libraries and how many have been closed here in Scotland in recent years, the more I was convinced to go ahead with the event as a way of bringing together the community to celebrate libraries and to remind those in control of funding that we will fight for our libraries. And let's not forget that under the under the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1973 it is a statutory duty of local authorities to provide a “comprehensive, efficient library service”.

Photo credit Oliver Goulden

The planning for this event began when it was unclear how long Leith Library would be closed.

In January, the last read-in protests were held outside many Glasgow libraries, seven of which had remained closed for some 22 months.

Around 40 supporters regularly attended the read-ins every week, with a hardy crew of 15 to 20 still showing up on the coldest of days.

"It’s one resource we have left around here. It’s somewhere you can walk to, where you can get out the house,” said Mhairi Taylor, who formed the Save the Couper Institute and Library campaign.

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"If you have lost your job, there are computers, there are printers. Macmillan holds sessions there, AA is there. These are all so important to the wellbeing of the community. It goes way beyond the library and the books.”

Yesterday saw protesters read out their favourite passage about Leith and Edinburgh.

Katrina continued: "Having read so much about the history of public libraries I ended up writing a blog for my website.

"Modern libraries offer many essential services beyond book lending but let's not forget that access to books is access to knowledge – libraries can transform people's lives. It isn't surprising that the ruling class were not enthusiastic about giving working class people public libraries in the 1800s.

"I will be keeping an eye on the situation throughout March to make sure that if still needed the testing centre is being relocated and look forward to supporting the Leith community in their campaigns for better public services".

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