Top Authors Backing Our Campaign to Save Libraries; Acclaimed Writers Angered by Plans to Close Much-Loved Institutions

Article excerpt

PLEDGE David Almond AWARD-WINNING authors are backing the Chronicle's campaign to Save Our Libraries. We reported on Saturday how Newcastle City Council is planning to close most libraries or hand them over to the community as part of PS90m of cuts.

As well as jobs being axed, the move will cause the loss of a vital service for many communities, especially young families and the elderly.

Today, celebrated writers from the North East have pledged their support to our campaign, which includes a petition to keep the libraries open.

Acclaimed children's author David Almond, who is best-known for the book Skellig and lives in Northumberland, said: "I definitely support this campaign.

"A library is one of humankind's greatest inventions and is at the heart of our culture.

"The library liberates and educates us as individuals, allows us to look beyond the boundaries of our own locality, gives us a sense of our place in the wider world.

"Children in particular need libraries and the services they offer. The simple fact is that they need free access to books.

"When I was a boy, I used the ordinary and wonderful little library just down the street from where I lived. Without it, I wouldn't have encountered many of the books, writers or ideas which were crucial to my growth."

Crime writer Ann Cleeves, who has won an army of fans through her Vera Stanhope books, which have been adapted for a gripping TV series starring Brenda Blethyn, is also supporting the campaign.

The writer, based in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, said: "Libraries are such an important resource, not just for children but for adults too.

"There aren't many places single women or older people can go on their own and feel safe.

"Libraries offer reading groups, poetry clubs and lots of other activities which make them real community hubs.

"Libraries also offer a wider variety of books. When you look in bookshops in the high street, they may have piles and piles of books, but they're all the same.

"With libraries you get works from new authors, short fiction and different genres altogether.

"Without libraries, many works just wouldn't be published in the first place."

She added: "For this campaign to be a real success, I urge people to go and join their library. You can't moan about losing them if you're not a member." Former Children's Laureate Anne Fine, whose popular books include Madame Doubtfire which was turned into the hit film Mrs Doubtfire starring Robin Williams, has also pledged her backing.

Anne, who has written about 60 books and lives in County Durham, said: "Next to the National Health Service, our free public libraries are our most loved and valued institutions.

"Over the years, libraries have changed. Most are far brighter and more welcoming. They give more space to computers. Many have coffee bars. Librarians now run reading groups and offer story times.

"But there's one constant. They are free and, up till now, pretty well everyone had access to one somehow."

The news that libraries are under threat has also angered many of our readers, with some posting comments on our website.

One, Greenbottle, described the move as an "absolute, shocking, utter disgrace," adding: "Once these libraries are emptied they will be left virtually secure-less. The vandals will totally destroy them, systematically stripping and thieving from these fine library buildings."

MORE than 30 acclaimed authors from around the world have joined forces and put pen to paper to save Newcastle's libraries.

In an open letter to the Chronicle, the writers have called for the city council to rethink its decision to shut most of the community branches in a bid to save money.

The authors include Carnegie Medal winner Tim Bowler, award-winning South African writer Beverley Naidoo, creator of the Scream Street series Tommy Donbavand, renowned Northern Irish author John Dougherty and popular crime writer Danuta Reah. …