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by Marcus Barnett
“UNPRECEDENTED” levels of cuts have seen the number of local library volunteers skyrocket to over 51,000 since the Tories took power.
A new study by Unison reveals that spending on libraries and reading services fell by £30 million in the 2017-18 financial year alone.
The union has estimated that this led to the loss of over 700 full-time workers.
As a result more than 51,000 people are volunteering in libraries to keep them running.
This is a huge spike of over quadruple the 12,700 people who gave their free time to libraries in 2006.
The report, released at Unison’s annual conference in Liverpool, also showed that an overwhelming majority of library workers feel the effects of austerity.
Nine in 10 workers said there had been job cuts at their library which have been damaging to the overall quality of service.
Two in five library workers said that they were thinking of, or seeking to find, a less stressful job.
Unison has speculated that the library services are being “softened up” for potential privatisation.
They also warned that an increase in “automated libraries” with bans on unaccompanied children means kids are being left without free access to books.
A Unison spokesman said: “The dramatic growth in volunteer and community-led libraries has led to the fragmentation of a national public library service and deprofessionalisation.
“Libraries need a workforce qualified in knowledge and information management. Volunteer libraries, by definition, are not sustainable and offer no long-term reliable alternative.”
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