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20 May 2015

Save our 'life saver' libraries!

Protecting libraries is an important part of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) campaigning. In Bristol, the independent mayor plans to close seven. Scandalously these cuts were fronted by the Green assistant mayor.

Saving libraries and other services requires principled, consistent opposition to the cuts - in actions, not just words. Local people will fight for this and we will stand with them.

Sean R spoke to the Socialist about how vital the library service has been to him.

"In September last year I found myself evicted and unemployed.

While I never had to sleep on the streets, not having a place of your own comes with its problems. Due to my low mood and feeling of helplessness, I started to drink - a lot. I thought there was no way out.

One day I called 999 to tell them 'a friend' was considering taking his life. Of course the friend was me. The ambulance crew came, but that is a different story.

After hitting rock bottom, I thought I had to do something - and fast. While I do have friends in Bristol, I am from Belfast so have no immediate family here. And my friends were not in a position to give me much more than the occasional night on the sofa.

Being homeless and without an internet-capable phone, I went to Bristol's local Bedminster library. In my first session there I found a homeless charity, St Mungos. I registered with them and was able to get a free meal once a day. They also helped me get on the council homeless register.


So that was one meal a day sorted out, and at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

On the job front, I was able to use the library to search all of the main job sites, alter my CV and scan legal documents when required. The light at the end of the tunnel got a little brighter.

While all this seems logical and something you would expect, there is another, less tangible way the library helped me. It gave me something to do.

I was living in a squat with no amenities or facilities, literally sleeping on the floor in an empty room. But each day when I woke up, I knew I could go to either Bedminster library for one hour's internet or the central library for two hours.


And I was now attending interviews and going to St Mungo's. This gave me some structure and hope.

As of writing this today: I am in a job that I like, I viewed a property last night - again, found on the internet using the library - and it looks like I will be moving in.

I have learnt a lot in the past months. About taking responsibility for yourself, about the support there is out there for you - and how something people take for granted, a local library, can be a life saver.

I think the proposed cuts to libraries are a disgrace, and will put further pressure on people who rely on them. Not just for books and education - but for other services people tend to forget about."

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