Libraries reopen in Florence: victory for workers' and citizens' protest

It hit the nail on the head when library workers took to the streets a couple of weeks ago to demand the reopening of Florence’s libraries. In the Tuscan capital, in fact, only five libraries out of thirteen were open, with cramped hours and services reduced to lending by reservation only.

The situation has finally changed, and as of July 13 all services will be reactivated: lending, reading room service, reference service, for eleven libraries. And with full hours. So it’s back to studying and reading in the reading rooms of the city libraries, and to open-shelf book consultation, albeit with safety measures to contain coronavirus contagion (mandatory mask, mandatory hand sanitization, mandatory physical spacing). In addition, the contracts of contract workers (just under a hundred, including part-timers considered) are saved. So, as of July 13, six libraries that until now were closed will be reopened: Palagio di Parte Guelfa, Thouar, De André, Pieraccioni, Galluzzo, and Orticoltura). The reservation system will be maintained to access the halls, and a surveillance service will be organized so as to ensure compliance with security regulations. Books returning from lending will be “quarantined” for a period of seven days to ensure sanitization from possible contagion. Books given out for consultation , on the other hand, will not be subjected to this isolation period, since they can only be touched with personal protective equipment.

“At last,” said Florence City Councillor for Culture Tommaso Sacchi, “we can announce the reactivation of a fundamental service for citizens, with the necessary safety measures to protect users and workers. We have had a difficult few weeks, and the news of the reopenings was an outcome that was not a foregone conclusion and also provides great reassurance for the workers that the City Council holds dear.”

“The library figures,” Sacchi added about the workers, “remain invaluable in making the civic libraries work. There is a contract that will see its reactivation with the recovery of the suspension time, due to the lockdown, which runs from April 7 to July 13. So it will go until the beginning of October, and then there will be a technical extension, provided for in the procurement code, to go until next spring, until March 2021. Then a selection will be made, through a public tender, for a new assignment of services.”

“As a Commission we have been closely following the story of the Florentine libraries. We have promoted numerous meetings also because libraries are not only a place of culture but are, above all, a free and accessible public garrison in the territory both for culture but also for education and sociality. Libraries exemplify the widespread interconnected, multicultural and multigenerational society that we intend to support in this municipality. Whenever we are able to reopen and activate a service, after the pandemic phase we suffered, it is always positive,” said Laura Sparavigna, chairwoman of the Education, Labor and Training Commission of the City of Florence. “We are waiting for the alderman in the Commission but, at the moment, I am satisfied that the rights, activities and quality of work of our workers have been guaranteed and protected. The library service remains one of the few effectively accessible and totally free services that manages to reach every single segment of society.”

“We are overjoyed to be back in the places of our work and that there is finally a certain reopening date,” declare the precarious workers of the Florentine libraries. “However, we would like to remind Mayor Dario Nardella that in Florence the doors of culture were closed for more than three months for 100 workers and were opened after about two months spent knocking in vain. Moreover, many doors of cultural venues still remain closed. Certainly this is good news, but we hope it is a promise for a new beginning and not a return to an ugly normal.”

Pictured is a reading room at the Oblate Library in Florence. Ph. Credit.

Libraries reopen in Florence: victory for workers' and citizens' protest
Libraries reopen in Florence: victory for workers' and citizens' protest