I write in response to Swindon Council’s plans to close 10 of our borough's 15 libraries.
As Swindon Libraries Patron to Children's Reading Services I want to speak up for the hundreds of children whose lives could be negatively impacted by these plans.
Since the publication of my first children's book, in 2014, I've visited many libraries in towns and cities across the UK, including my hometown of Swindon, and I have seen first-hand just how effectively our librarians positively impact the lives of children in their local communities.
I've seen how Swindon librarians inspire and nurture a love of reading amongst children by reaching out to local schools, holding weekly story time sessions, running regular contests and competitions, celebrating nationwide reading campaigns, and so much more.
By making reading fun and accessible in a free and welcoming space, our librarians equip and empower children with lifelong learning and literacy skills, which help close the gap between social advantages in children.
Only recently I took part in a story time session at my local library in Old Town and spoke with some of the parents who expressed just how important and beneficial these weekly sessions are to them. One parents said she would be lost without her local library.
At Swindon's Upper Stratton Library I held an interactive story event for KS1 pupils from a nearby school. For me, the one hour session flew by; but for the pupils, it stimulated a weeklong activity which resulted in the library displaying their artwork for several weeks. One of the things I've noticed the most since engaging with libraries in this way, is just how crucial the relationship between a school and its local library is. I've heard many a teacher express how important their local library is to the wellbeing and personal development of their pupils, especially those with disadvantages and special needs.
Unsurprisingly, the fate of our libraries has been weighing heavily on my mind. The proposed closure of 10 out of 15 libraries, along with the reduction in hours, will inevitably deprive our borough of a comprehensive and efficient library service.
Like many people, I can't make sense of this drastic proposal, but what I do know is that libraries are invaluable, each and every one of them. A way must be found to keep as many of our libraries open as possible.
I call on Swindon Council to reconsider the closure of two thirds of our borough's libraries, and Department for Culture, Media and Sport to take responsibility at a central government level for the impact closures would have on Swindon’s children.
Steve Antony is a children’s author and illustrator and a Swindon Libraries Patron for their Children's Reading Services.