We ♥ Libraries is a campaign group for people in North Hertfordshire and Stevenage who love their libraries and want a way of showing it. It aims to do the following:
- Celebrate all the good that libraries do in our community, and help more people to benefit from them
- Campaign in defence of our local libraries when they are threatened by cuts and other financial pressures
We ♥ Libraries is independent of Hertfordshire County Council, which runs the library service, and of any political party, business or group. In time, its organisers hope it will develop into a formally-constituted Friends’ Group for the libraries in Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock, Royston, Knebworth and Stevenage.
Co-founder Andy Darley said: “I grew up in Hitchin and the library was like a second home to me. As a child it was a place of magic and wonder, and it really matters to me that people all across our area – whatever their ages – should have the same opportunities I had.
“Libraries are more than just buildings with books in them. Their combination of resources, facilities and highly-trained staff mean they can act as a hub for a whole town or district. By spreading knowledge, culture and information, a strong library network builds a strong community.”
The group can already claim two lobbying successes:
- Co-founder Lisa Hutchins has secured an agreement from the county council that its Overview and Scrutiny Committee will review the effects of the recent cut in library hours. The council has said it will wait a year so it has enough information to properly understand the effects, but the group is hopeful of making a strong case to reverse them.
- Lisa has also been lobbying at a European level about the potential problems caused to libraries by copyright and licensing restrictions on e-books and other electronic material. As a result, Eastern Region MEP Andrew Duff has agreed to look further into the issue.
The We ♥ Libraries website includes the latest news from the campaign, and also groups that members can join including a parents’ group, a reading group and a writers’ circle. It is also on Twitter as @whlibraries and has a Facebook page.
Andy Darley and Lisa Hutchins live in the Walsworth district of Hitchin, where they run internet and copywriting business Onlineability as well as supporting Hitchin Town Football Club, growing their own fruit and veg on an allotment in Letchworth and taking part in local running events.
Both are former news reporters, and Andy currently teaches journalism and web design part time. Lisa is an information architect and member of CILIP, the organisation for librarians and information professionals.