Scottish authors Val McDermid and Ian Rankin have expressed their anger at Fife council’s plans to close 16 libraries, while Scottish National Party MPs have lodged a motion in the House of Commons in an attempt to reverse the decision.
Following Fife Council’s decision to close 16 libraries in order to find savings of £813,000 announced earlier this week, library campaigners have said they are “absolutely gutted” and McDermid called the situation “disgraceful”.
McDermid, who grew up in Fife, told The Guardian: “We complain all the time about young people not reading books, but if we make it harder for them to get books, reading is not going to increase. Libraries are there for people who can’t afford books, or whose families don’t see any value in reading books.”
McDermind said her family had no money to spend on books when she was growing up so libraries were her "route to understanding the world."
“Frankly, I would not be a writer if it were not not for the public library system,” she said. “In Fife we have a library built with Andrew Carnegie’s money – those industrialists understood the value of educating people. These are the things we are losing. These are the things we are throwing away.”
She added: “These are libraries in small villages that don’t have other resources, and so libraries have a role that is more than just the lending of books. They serve as a community hub in so many ways – they’re a warm place to go when you can’t afford to put your heating on, and there are people who don’t have computers whose only access to the internet is in a library. To throw them away seems to me to be short-sighted.”
Rankin said that Bowhill library, one of the branches due to close next spring, had been his "refuge and a place of constant wonder."
“I learned so much from those books, and can still smell the dark wood panelling,” said the author. “I was back there a few weeks ago. The interior was much changed – smaller and less maze-like than I remembered – but it was still a place of wonder, as all libraries should be.”
On Wednesday (9th December), SNP MPs filed an early day motion in parliament "deploring" the decision to close the libraries. They argued that the closures "will lead to job losses" and said that libraries "provide an invaluable resource to people of all ages who rely on their local library for a wide range of different services [and] sit at the heart of communities, providing space and facilities often not available close by."
The motion was filed by Stephen Gethins, Peter Grant, Douglas Chapman, Roger Mullin, Neil Gray and Martyn Day.
Gethins, whose constitutency will see six libraries close, told Fife Today: “I am very disappointed by the decision; it’s incredibly short-sighted and will deprive many communities of a vital and valuable service.”
Fife library campaigners are also considering launching a legal bid in order to overturn the decision, The Courier has reported. Protestors have revealed that they had contacted a lawyer to see if a legal challenge is possible.
Bryce Sutherland, campaigner from Keep Fife’s Libraries Open, said: “This isn’t over. One way or another, we are going to reverse their shallow, callous, blinkered decision.”
Fife Cultural Trust, which runs 47 of Fife’s 51 libraries on behalf of the council, is facing a 20% budget cut and said closing the libraries would account for £571,000 of the £813,000 it must find in savings by April 2018. The libraries are set to close in spring 2016.
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