Almond speaks out as Newcastle library closures announced

Newcastle City Council has announced plans to close 10 of its 18 libraries as it looks to make savings of £90m over the next three years.

The announcement was made as campaigners gathered together in Grainger Street in the city last night (20th November) and declared their intention to fight the plans.

Author Alan Gibbons of the Campaign for the Book and a member of the Speak Up For Libraries coalition, criticised Newcastle’s Labour-run council. He said: “A Labour council should not be acting as a conduit for the cuts made by a millionaire’s cabinet.”

He added: “When we visit a library and read a book we stand on the shoulders of giants so we can see further, we raise our self esteem and awareness of identity and make ourselves anew, open to the great possibilities of life.”

Newcastle-born author David Almond also spoke out against the planned cuts, saying: “It is easy to forget how important a library is. A library was hugely liberating, it was egalitarian and democratic. I hated school but I loved the library. At school I was taught not to be ambitious. When I was in the library I thought I could do anything. We want kids to become themselves, to look forward to abundant and pleasant lives. Without that library I probably wouldn’t have become a writer.”

Gibbons also read statements from Val Bierman, the programme administrator for the Northern Children’s Book Festival, and Lee Hall, the writer of Billy Elliott.

Bierman said: “This latest blow of closures will be yet a further setback. NCBF should celebrate 30 years of existence in 2013 but it’s future is now seriously threatened.”

Lee said: “A Labour administration which would even consider closing all local libraries travesties the history of the party and the Labour movement. For more than a century libraries have been central to a vision that ordinary lives are blighted if they are denied access to learning and culture.”

Gibbons closed the meeting urging all campaigners to work together: “If great pressure is coming from above for cuts there has to be an equal, indeed more powerful, countervailing pressure from below, from the people.”

Newcastle City Council has now outlined its proposals for savings, the equivalent of £760 for every household in the city. Around 1,300 jobs are set to be lost over the next three years alongside the library cuts, while bin collections will be halved and leisure facilities will be transferred to private bodies.