Authors protest at 'appalling' cull of Newcastle libraries

Authors Philip Pullman, childrens laureate Julia Donaldson, Malorie Blackman and Meg Rosoff are among those protesting about the news that the bulk of Newcastle's 18 libraries are to be closed or handed to community groups.

It has emerged in local reports that the majority of branch libraries facing closure, with the exact number to be confirmed this week but only the newly rebuilt city centre library safe from the axe.

Council leaders are expected to say that those libraries not already part of a customer service centre or shared with another council will go as it looks to save £7m from its library budget.

Library services director Tony Durcan said: "We are in this position because frankly we cannot go on as we were before. We face significant spending cuts and that will have a substantial impact on our budget."

Author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons has co-ordinated an open letter to Newcastle's councillors calling on them to think again. Pullman, Donaldson, Blackman and Rosoff have all signed the letter, along with former childrens laureate Anne Fine, Beverley Naidoo and many others.

"We are authors, many of whom have attended the Northern Children’s Book Festival and other events in the region over many years," the letter states. "We have enjoyed the tremendous warmth and hospitality of young book lovers in the North East and the librarians and teachers who introduce them to the joy of reading.

"We are therefore appalled to hear that council leaders are planning draconian cuts to the city’s libraries. The UK is 25th in the PISA international reading rankings. This is no time to cut libraries. It is the young and the elderly who disproportionately depend on branch libraries. The cost in educational underachievement would far outweigh any savings made by cuts.

"It is not the role of a Labour council to act as a conduit for the coalition government’s 'austerity’ cuts which disproportionately hit the poorest and most vulnerable. We call on Newcastle’s councillors to reconsider this wrong and immoral course."

 

Editor's blog: Libraries on the brink