Thousands turn out for Save our Libraries day

Read-ins, storytelling events, workshops and gigs were among the many protests across the country in a national day of action against library closures.

More than 100 protests were staged on Saturday, Save our Libraries Day, raising awareness about government cuts to the library service.

At Leeds Central Library, demonstrators showed their condemnation of plans to close libraries in the area by holding a read-in protest. The facility in Kirkstall, Leeds, has been marked for to go in the nationwide cull and Horsforth library is also under threat, among others across the region.

Sarah Bradley, a writer and music therapist, launched a Facebook campaign against the government measures and used the social networking site to organise the Leeds protest.

She told The Bookseller: “The plans to close libraries across the country is an exclusionary measure. Libraries gives people the chance to try out different authors and read different types of literature that they might not usually, which is so important to society.”

Another demonstrator, librarian Jess Haigh said libraries were a unique venue to educate people. She said: “I have seen some women my age who have never read a book in their lives start to read by coming to libraries, they must not close any, they are all so important.”

There was a busy protest at Blackheath Village Library in Lewisham, with the young and the elderly especially visible. There was a two-hour afternoon read-in, with around 50-60 people sitting listening to readings. Musicians Sly and Reggie played their "We Love Libraries" song outside, travelling between all five Lewisham libraries threatened with closure.

Protestors in New Cross, south east London, also staged a read-in protest. A group of around 40 people staged a "read-in", choosing to stay in the library overnight before leaving on the Sunday.

Protester James Holland told the BBC: "We need to save all public services and we don't need to cut any of them. I don't understand why people aren't looking at the genuine alternatives to fund public services and to getting the money from the people who can afford to pay it - that's exactly the answer."

Lauren Smith, spokewoman for Voices for the Library, said yesterday: "Local councils are having to make these decisions so quickly. Once a library is shut it will never reopen. When councils realise what they have done it will be too late."

Around 400 people in Beeston Library in Nottinghamshire took part in a mass borrow protest organised by Unison. Independent publisher Five Leaves held a 'read out', reading a number of book and library related pieces. Five Leaves' Ross Bradshaw said: "We had no idea how many people would turn up. It was a remarkable successful event which showed how much people value their local library. Following earlier protests Nottinghamshire County Council has put £400,000 back into the book fund and allowed another £70,000 for staffing costs of smaller libraries. Twenty eight of the smaller libraries were to have their opening hours cut by 75% and the response from the public means that 22 will now 'only' be cut by 50%. This is awful but means that those libraries will still be viable and shows the value of protesting."

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reported yesterday that the company that helps run the Library of Congress in the United States has approached 50 library authorities to help rescue them from cuts. The Library Systems and Services (LSSI) claims councils are so inefficient that libraries could still run with more than a third cut from its costs. The LSSI proposes taking over the management of libraries while leaving ownership of books and buildings with councils. According to the paper, 12 library authorities are in serious talks with LSSI.