Library campaigner Tim Coates called on publishers to get involved in the fight to save public libraries, warning that the 500 currently threatened with closure will be followed by many more without action to protect the service.
Speaking at the “Books and Public Libraries in the UK” LBF seminar, in the wake of the London borough of Brent Council’s decision to go ahead with the closure of six libraries, Coates said: “We’ll see 500 [go] this year, and we’ll see another 1,000 next year once councils see they can get away with it.”
He told his audience: “I’ve tried so hard to get publishers and publishing bodies involved, they seem not to be interested. Authors have got very involved. I wish the major publishers would take up this cause. If you are a publisher and have any voice, please use it.”
Coates was joined by author and Campaign for the Book organiser Alan Gibbons, who also made a rousing call for action. “I appeal to you to get behind the campaigners. The library service is vital—if we let it go, you won’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” he said. Gibbons added that he was issuing a challenge to the Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt for a televised public debate to go through the issues “before philistinism, ignorance and cost-cutting replaces the library service with empty sheds”.
Coates said no libraries in Brent needed to close, criticising the council’s budget cuts as penalising frontline services instead of management costs. He claimed a pan-London not-for-profit “libraries trust”, as an umbrella for affiliated independent libraries across the capital, would cut the expense of operating London’s libraries from £200m to £150m per annum.
Meanwhile, Gibbons said the 320 million visits to public libraries in Britain each year could “easily” be 600 million with proper leadership for the service.