The #savelibraries chat I had with Ed Vaizey at the Children’s Laureate Announcement0June 16th, 2011Literacy
My daughter Charlotte was one of four kids chosen by Book Trust to be invited to Children Laureate announcement after she wrote an email nomination (she nominated Nick Sharratt but Julia Donaldson, ala Gruffalo, won).
From that, we had a heads up that Ed Vaizey was going to be speaking at the event. For those that don’t know, on January 16th I tweeted Libraries are important because [fill in & RT] #savelibraries on Twitter and it went WorldTrending (thanks to Neil Gaiman and Jack Schofield) and there was a lot of attention to the hashtag. The responses I received were heartfelt and meaningful and showed how, world-wide, libraries were a necessity, not a luxury. I was put into a position to speak on behalf of libraries, something I hope I did with dignity.
From that, I started to tweet Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt to find out how they would answer the tweet.
I talked it over with Charlotte and said if possible, and as long as it didn’t take away from her very special day, would she mind if I had a quiet word with him. She was more than happy and here is where I’m going to go into Proud Mom mode.
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with the BookTrust staff who made sure Charlotte was happy and was ok with how the day was going to run. Before the announcement, Charlotte was asked to read from the Gruffalo for BBC News (this is how we found out the new Laureate before anyone else ) and be interviewed. After reading the Gruffalo, the newsman asked Charlotte what is the first question she’ll ask the new Laureate. Charlotte said ‘What they are going to do about the threat of libraries closing.’ We never told her to say that.
By the time we get back into the room I had missed Ed’s speech on libraries (which apparently was a good thing!). But we were put on the front row which was amazing. On the panel was the current Laureate Anthony Browne, Baroness Flo Benjamin and of course, Ed.
Afterward the announcement and speech by the new Laureate, Julia Donaldson, Charlotte was taken to be interviewed for Radio 4, Guardian, Sky, etc etc. As Michael (my husband) was with me also, he talked me into going to see Ed knowing Charlotte was going to be a bit. So I went to look for Ed. I ran into another dear friend Anna from Usborne who unknowing gave me additional courage I was requiring at the right moment. Anna found out Ed was still in the announcing room so I went to have a look.
Ed was busy being interviewed by the BBC, on libraries of course, so I waited for him to finish and then I grabbed him. Well actually I just blocked the door but it worked. I asked him why he didn’t ever tweet me back. He knew then who I was because at first he got defensive(ish) and asked if I have read his report. I said no because it had more than 140 characters (a limitation on Twitter). Ed then said he didn’t understand what he was suppose to do (with my tweet) and what was it? Day 114? This is when I knew he had received my tweets. So I explained what he should have done and how painless it was.
We also had a chat – well, in fairness, this was mainly me talking and explaining that perhaps being defensive and taking the time to listen to people, like he was doing with me right now would be best approach. I said I got the impression he said what he thought we wanted to hear but not what was the actual situation. I explained that I wasn’t part of a library campaign as my local library in Bridgnorth, and in fact all of Shropshire were ok but that I was a mom – a mom who saw why libraries were important.
I continued and said that unlike some people, I agree with him that not all libraries should be saved. However, libraries that *are* being used, regardless of their quota, needs to be saved. Now this might be cuts within the budget and perhaps a better sharing program in areas that have libraries relatively close, but demanding closure or volunteers running them was just not feasible.
I did mention UKPling and Fight4Libraries which he looked blankly at like it was the first time he heard them. So I said ‘Do yourself a favour and find out who they are…’ He did however know about Alan Gibbon and some other key people.
After my speech (for lack of a better word!) I went back and found Michael where I basically collapsed at the thought of what I just did. Charlotte was just finishing up with her interviews for the press and was then taken into another room with the other competition winners where they were allowed to interview Julia Donaldson.
Charlotte asked Julia what she was going to do about the threat of Libraries to which Julia replied that she was very passionate about saving libraries and this was before all the campaigns started!
Another pupil, from PopUpFestival ask Julia if she felt Ed was truthful in his library speech (which I missed in the beginning). She basically said No, that she felt he only touched the surface and said what he thought others wanted to hear today.
Funny, I thought the same.
I couldn’t have been prouder of Charlotte. She was the youngest of the Competition winners but you would never had known it. I also can not thank the BookTrust team enough for making so many great memories for our daughter.
Links to Interviews:
Links to Pictures