ARTS / CULTURE & LEISURE
UK libraries fall victim to funding cuts amid coronavirus pandemic
Published: Dec 27, 2020 05:43 PM

A pedestrian walks past the entrance to central library in Manchester, northwest England as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases on October 19. Photo: AFP

For veteran librarian Fergus Wilde, his favorite place in Chetham's Library in Manchester, the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world, is the row of study areas that feature within its ancient medieval walls.

"Inside each of those, you are in a little world; effectively, you close the little gate behind you. And looking back at little wooden bars, the windows give out onto the city, but inside there you are faced with a sort of 10-foot-high wall of ancient knowledge. And each one of those has got its own special points."

Wilde has been a librarian for around 25 years. Through the time, he's overseen changes both within its walls, and outside of it, but with the coronavirus pandemic, Chetham's has taken an almighty hit, as have most libraries across Britain.

Recently, a report highlighted that the total funding for libraries in Britain was down by nearly 20 million pounds (about $27 million) in 2020 to March. Falls in funding were matched by drops in borrowing, with budgets for 2021 set to fall by an average of 14 percent, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Librarians warned about the impact of the cuts, particularly in the face of the pandemic, during which many branches have increased ebook availability and online services to meet demand. Cuts would inevitably have an impact on the people who need libraries most, estimating that England alone faced a funding gap of 4 million pounds due to the increased demand for libraries.


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