More than 300 writers have signed a letter to the new secretary of state for culture, Karen Bradley, asking her to “set a new course” for libraries.
The letter, signed by authors such as Philip Pullman, Malorie Blackman and Michael Rosen, says: “Public libraries, museums and galleries are vital social and cultural resources at the heart of our communities. They give access to reading, literacy, information technology, history, art, information and enjoyment. But they are in crisis.
“We call upon you, as secretary of state for culture, media and sport to recognise this crisis and set a new course after years of decline.”
The letter was written by children’s author and library campaigner Alan Gibbons, who told The Guardian libraries “offer education, inspiration and access to knowledge”. He added: “Sadly, they are under attack from government cuts as never before. It is time to stand up for libraries.”
His letter, which has also been signed by Jackie Kay, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Darren Shan and Philip Ardagh, says that since 2010, the UK has lost 343 libraries and 8,000 paid members of staff. There has instead been a 93% increase in library volunteers, it adds.
In February this year Gibbons joined Cathy Cassidy and Jake Arnott and Philip Ardagh at parliament yesterday to protest the “national scandal” of the widespread closures of public library services across the UK. The gathering was organised by the Speak Up For Libraries coalition.
Dawn Finch, president of librarian's body CILIP, praised library campaigners, saying: “We have a great debt of gratitude to library campaigners - it is you people who have been out there, fighting… that is what has kept libraries going and library workers going… for the people in libraries who are not allowed to speak up, you have kept it going."
Finch urged campaigners to use the lobby to ask “why so many MPs have been allowed to stand by while the public library service is being hollowed out."