Authors speak out for National Libraries Day

Libraries across the country celebrated National Libraries Day on Saturday (9th February), the culmination of a week of activities designed to highlight the role the service plays in local communities.

Hundreds of libraries held special events, from author readings to animal handling sessions. In Lambeth, actress Joanna Lumley appeared at Tate South library to sign copies of her book Absolutely (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) while in Fleet in Hampshire children’s author Lucy Courtenay read from her WILD series.

In Newcastle, where the city council is considering closing 10 of its 18 libraries, authors and actors banded together to protest the cuts and sing the praises of the service. Crime writers Ann Cleeves and Val McDermid all spoke out at Cruddas Park library about the importance of branches, while Emmerdale stars appeared at Fenham library, with actress Charlie Hardwick calling them “a lifeline”.

The Reading Agency also encouraged celebrities to tweet their support for libraries throughout Saturday using the #lovelibraries hashtag. Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat said: “Libraries: what we used to have when we believed in equal opportunity, free education for all & the power of words over money.” Crime writer Peter James tweeted: “I love libraries coz as unhappy lonely child they gave an alternative universe of joy & riches.”

CILIP President Phil Bradley said: “We are absolutely delighted by the response to National Libraries Day 2013. Library users, staff and supporters really got behind the day, making it a spectacular success. Saturday and the week leading up to it saw a whole host of exciting, interesting and downright wacky events, including pole-dancing fitness classes, Dalek invasions, rock concerts and record-breaking school librarians. Librarians and library staff are true unsung heroes in our communities; they increase literacy levels and provide training and support to those who need it most. It was inspiring to witness such an outpouring of support. Let’s keep up the momentum and make every day like National Libraries Day.” 

In his Oxfordshire constituency, libraries minister Ed Vaizey read Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, the most borrowed children’s book of last year. He told the Oxford Mail: “I loved reading it to the kids, and getting the chance to show how important and successful libraries remain.”

Shadow libraries minister Dan Jarvis said on his blog: “If we believe in a society in which everyone, regardless of background, is able to pursue their interests, education and personal development then libraries are a fundamental tool which should be supported.” He added that he hoped NLD would persuade the Government to treat libraries as a “serious priority”.

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Photo: Joanna Lumley signs copies of her memoir Absolutely (W&N) at Tate South Lambeth Library, Lambeth on National Libraries Day. Credit: Elaine Kramer