Don't Axe Our Libraries, Say Top Authors

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Byline: Mark Blunden and Jonathan Prynn

A GROUP of leading authors today backed the fight to save London's libraries from government cuts.

Some of Britain's best-selling names in fiction, poetry and satire -- including Will Self and Benjamin Zephaniah -- joined former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion in condemning plans by councils that could see 130 libraries close. They urged town hall officials to reconsider cutting a service used by 3.4 million Londoners a total of 52 million times a year.

Helen Dunmore, the first winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, said she was "horrified" by the closure plan. She said: "It will weaken literacy and weaken communities. They are not a frill, they are a vital part of society. They are a core service at the time of so much uncertainty and unemployment.

"I've always been moved by the enthusiasm of library staff and the way they go beyond the call of duty. Once that is destroyed you cannot build it again."

London councils under pressure to implement 27 per cent cuts imposed by Chancellor George Osborne are putting libraries first in the firing line because they claim book provision is not a "statutory service".

Councils including Lewisham, Wandsworth, and Hammersmith and Fulham said some libraries will close and other boroughs including Camden and Westminster will use volunteers to run some services. Only one borough, Hillingdon, has pledged that its libraries are safe.

Satirist Self is directly affected by the closure threat to Northcote Library in Wandsworth, which he uses with his children.

He said: "Libraries should be one of the aspects of public services that doesn't come under cost-benefit analysis.

They exist as a public service and that should not be negotiable. I think they should have never let the internet into libraries, it diminishes the perceived value of the book stock. Now everyone thinks you just have to Google Plato, you don't have to read The Republic. …