Campaign to save libraries steps up a gear

As local authorities wield the axe over public services, authors have launched a war of words against the closure of public libraries, reports Claire French.

As local authorities wield the axe over public services, authors have launched a war of words against the closure of public libraries. A national campaign began today to highlight the importance of libraries in local communities. We Love Libraries is described as a ‘Big Society’ production, and features the testimonies of people from every corner of the country.

Watch the campaign video:

Last week, a coalition of authors, actors, and other well known names spoke out against the possible closures of libraries across the country.

Fantasy author Philip Pullman, who last year condemned the Department for Education’s plan to stop funding the Booktrust scheme as “sheer stupid vandalism”, has publicly criticised local authorities for the expected closure of more than 400 libraries.

In a speech to campaigners in Oxford, where up to 20 of the 43 libraries may be forced to close, Pullman said that the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire county council:

“…invites us to suggest what we would do instead. What would we cut? Would we sacrifice care for the elderly? Or would youth services feel the axe? I don’t think we should accept his invitation. It’s not our job to cut services. It’s his job to protect them.”

The Guardian last week reported that campaign groups are looking to take legal action against the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and his minister Ed Vaizey, for breaking their duty to “superintend and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities”. On Tuesday, Ed Vaizey said that “the death of libraries had been greatly exaggerated”.

And Liberal Democrat minister Sarah Teather recently shocked a meeting of concerned constituents when she ‘suggested’ direct action as a last resort to library closures.

• This Saturday (5th Feb), libraries around the country will be playing host to read-ins, author appearances and story-telling events to protest at the threatened closure of 400 branches; to find your nearest participating library, use this map.

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