Ben Bailey Smith, Gill Furniss MP and Chris Riddell (left to right)
Credit Rolf Marriott Photography and CILIP
Gill joined Actor Ben Bailey Smith and Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell joined politicians in a packed committee room at the House of Lords on Tuesday night to launch the new All Parliamentary Group for Libraries.
CILIP, the library and information association has been campaigning for the public’s right to quality public library services. My Library By Right holds central and local Government to account for their legal duties under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act to provide ‘comprehensive and efficient’ public library services.
At the event as new Chair of the APPG, Gill said, “I was brought up on a council estate in Sheffield and my dad was a reader. When I was four he took me with him to the public library and it was like walking into an Aladdin’s cave.”
She added, “If my dad hadn’t taken me to that library I do not think I would be stood here as a Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough. I’ve got my career and the knowledge it gave me which drove me on to go and get a degree and eventually become a Councillor.”
Commenting on her role she said, “What I have to say in response to the Minister is that many challenges have been placed on the libraries sector in the last few years, some of them becoming increasingly difficult. And as chair of the APPG I don’t mind falling out with the minister. If there’s a cause to be fought for I’ll go and tell him about it. So I’m just putting him on warning there.”
At the event Ben Bailey Smith, actor, rapper, comedian and children’s author gave an exclusive reading of a new work by best-selling author Ben Aaronovitch who is a trustee of Cityread London, the capital's library development charity which boosts library attendance and has generated £1.5m for library programmes since its launch in 2012.
Before the reading Ben said, “I’m not here by coincidence. I was raised on a council estate in North West London and shared a bedroom with my sister who was very annoying and used to read constantly through the night and keep me up and force me to read the books she read so I grew up reading Judy Bloom and Little Women that brought me to tears … but as much as she bugged me she got me into the library culture.” His sister is the acclaimed author Zadie Smith.
The All Parliamentary Group will promote the role of libraries across society and the economy. Libraries in communities, businesses, schools and Universities provide everyone with opportunities to ensure the UK benefits from a high-skilled economy and equal society.
CILIP supported the launch of the APPG and will provide its secretariat. Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP reminded the audience of the wider community of 30-40,000 libraries staffed by, “an army of 90,000 librarians adding value making a profound contribution to the social and economic fabric of our great nation.”
Many thanks to CILIP for the text of this article, which has been edited.