How Britons are fleeing the economic crisis
Libraries are becoming a refuge for those affected by the economic crisis. These institutions provide 'warm places' for vulnerable people to stay safe and have access to free food this winter.
More and more Britons are struggling to pay their bills and are coming to libraries to keep warm in the midst of books. "It's as cold at home this winter as it is outside," a woman told AFP in an interview on a day when temperatures in Ipswich peaked at minus 5 degrees. An unemployed Briton, she has been coming regularly to the local church library for a year to keep warm and get food and toiletries. Britain, where inflation has been over ten per cent for months, is in a severe cost-of-living crisis and some Britons can no longer afford proper food or heating.
Municipal libraries as well as other community centres or facilities serve as a kind of heating centre for the poorest residents. Here low-income people can not only get a warm meal and a snack, but also listen to children's choirs or municipal ensembles that come to entertain them.
The role of British public libraries in vulnerable communities has increased markedly since the start of the country's energy crisis in 2022. They are funded by municipal councils, themselves hit by massive budget cuts. Libraries have been forced to raise additional funds or rely on volunteers.
Amid inflation and soaring energy bills, the national charity Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) has published guidance for organisations wishing to install 'heating points' such as churches or municipal buildings.
It is worth noting that libraries, forced to offer an increasing number of services, are themselves faced with rising heating and lighting costs. This winter, the Conservative government of Rishi Sunak is funding a cap on electricity and gas bills. But households and businesses still have to pay much more than a year ago.