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Bestselling author Philip Pullman joins calls to ‘save’ National Library of Wales

02 Feb 2021 5 minutes Read
National Library of Wales. Photo by csmramsde, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Philip Pullman has joined calls to save the National Library of Wales.

The bestselling author has said that the Library is “under threat” and described cuts to it by the Welsh Government as an act of “vandalism”.

The Library, based in Aberystwyth, is currently in consultation with its remaining employees about losing a further thirty members of staff, which is in addition to the roughly 100 posts that have been lost since 2010.

This would leave just 200 people in post, which is a number nowhere near enough to keep essential services running, according to its former librarian, Andrew Green.

Mr Pullman, who wrote the famous trilogy His Dark Materials, said: “Wherever we look in these islands we see vandalism on an epic scale. The National Library of Wales is under threat.

“The National Library of Wales is in danger, and it must be saved.”

Mr Pullman retweeted Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian at the University of Oxford, and a fellow of Balliol College, who spoke out on the matter and shared an article by Andrew Green on the subject which was published on Nation.Cymru.

‘Petition’ 

Mr Ovenden said: “This is a deeply shocking article from @gwallter, and I am glad to be quoted here in defence of proper funding for @NLWales. I urge the Welsh Government to do the right for their country. Now is the for Wales to invest in knowledge!”

An online Senedd petition has gathered more than 13,500 signatures, which asks the Welsh Government to provide “fair funding” to “one of the world’s great libraries”, and says it is a “repository of the historic, artistic and intellectual treasures of Wales.”

According to a spokesperson for the government it is a “matter for the Library to make decisions as to how it can operate effectively within available budgets.” It says that it has been able protect grant-in-aid from cuts but said that this was not possible to increase revenue support because of “unprecedented budget pressures.”

Mr Green wrote on Nation.Cymru: “Between 2008 and 2019 the Library has lost 40 per cent of its income. Already many activities have been cut back severely, and public services compromised. To put it simply, if these new cuts go through, and are followed by yet more, the Library cannot survive as a working institution.

“Anyone seriously interested in Wales and its history and culture depends on the Library for knowledge, and access to that knowledge will be harder in future. Ceredigion could lose a valued community centre, and exhibition spaces may close. Children would be deprived of the Library’s excellent educational services.”

‘Ignored’ 

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Culture, Sian Gwenllian MS said: “The Welsh Government has ignored the financial concerns of the National Library of Wales which is clearly reflected in the lack of funding set aside for the Library in the latest budget.

“The Deputy Minister for Culture has failed to accept recommendations to increase funding made by the Tailored Review of the National Library.

“On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I have challenged the Government to provide adequate support to the Library on three separate occasions in the Senedd during November and December, but to no avail.

“The National Library has already restructured in recent years and lost 90 staff. It now faces the prospect of losing 30 further members of staff, which would threaten the highly important work the Library carries out.

“The Library is a fundamental part of the cultural, educational and historic life of Wales and the Welsh Government must urgently set aside proper funding in order to safeguard it.”

‘Considered’ 

A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: “This petition will now be considered by the Petitions Committee for a debate in the Senedd and will have full consideration and a formal response. This is the usual process for Senedd consideration under its standing orders.

“We know this is a very difficult period for the culture and heritage sector and talk of any job losses is a real concern.

“We have been able to protect the Library’s grant-in-aid from any reductions but due to unprecedented budget pressures it has not been possible to increase revenue support.

“It is a matter for the Library to make decisions as to how it can operate effectively within.”

The petition says: “We call for fair funding by the Welsh Government to the National Library of Wales, one of the world’s great libraries, a repository of the historic, artistic and intellectual treasures of Wales.

“With no increased support from Welsh Government, 30 jobs are to be cut and services seriously curtailed.

“Freedom, prosperity and the development of society and individuals are fundamental human values, attained by well-informed citizens with unlimited access to thought, culture and information.

“To ensure that the National Library of Wales continues with delivering comprehensive services to all, we ask the Welsh Government to increase its financial support, ensuring that it remains a gateway to knowledge, providing lifelong learning.

“Libraries cannot be expected to generate their own income in the same way as businesses.”

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