On Wednesday night, under this banner, something quite remarkable began to take shape.
In sub zero temperatures, with the snow falling down on us and the state of the frozen roads causing traffic chaos, approximately one hundred and fifty people marched through the city centre, united by their love of libraries, books and learning; determined to defend them for future generations.
I was one of the one hundred and fifty people and I made these signs to take with me, borrowing quotes from people I respect and admire; Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman & Stephen Fry.
When we got to the building the doors had been left open, so we marched inside. We marched past bewildered looking employees, carrying with us the banners of libraries, of books and of stories. Nobody tried to stop us. How could anyone argue against people loving libraries?
When we got to the council chamber we went inside. We sat down in the plush leather armchairs laid out for council members and we waited for the councillors to arrive and for the meeting to begin.
So we waited.
They did not come.
A few, it is true, milled nervously around the doorways, one or two were kind enough to chat to us, off the record. But the meeting we had hoped for did not take place. The chamber remained entirely empty of elected officials.
Eventually some policeman arrived, looked around, saw that nobody was breaking any laws by wanting to attend a public meeting in a public building and, quietly, they left again.
Later we learned what had happened. We learned that the councillors had moved themselves to another part of the building. We learned that they had carried out their meeting in secret and out of the sight of the ordinary people who so desperately wanted to tell them why libraries matter and plead with them to think again about averting their impending destruction.
We wandered away, one by one; back out into the cold winter night. Had we achieved something? had anybody listened?
The press had.
Our “occupation” of council chambers was given extensive coverage the following day and thankfully it was largely libraries, not revolutionaries, being discussed in plenty.
Tomorrow, the danger is that the press will have a new story to cover…but we are still here; still determined to save our libraries from destruction. We still have our signs and our placards and we still have our beliefs that public libraries are indispensable treasures, too precious to be cast onto the winter bonfire and burned away, never to be seen again.
We will still be here tomorrow and we will still be here next week and next month and next year. We will not fade away. We will not be ignored. We will grow stronger and larger as the closures draw near and we will not give up.
We will save our libraries from destruction.
You can sign a petition to help us here.