Waterstones boss James Daunt has slammed the widespread closure of public libraries as a "disgrace", arguing that the decline will have a damning effect on the future of British society.
Daunt said that cuts to libraries will threaten social mobility and negatively impact education, according to the Daily Mail.
He referred to local politicians who shut down libraries as "penny-pinching short-termists" whose actions will create problems for society in future.
"If you have libraries, you will have people who are better educated and more civilised," said Daunt. "You’ll probably have people with fewer mental health problems."
Daunt also that he thought libraries were more important than bookshops.
"Libraries matter enormously. We need to focus on keeping them open", Daunt told The Bookseller. "It also about the purpose of libraries and how they are run. This is something which is important to all of us, and to society as a whole. They are very important, more so than bookshops. It is something I have talked about for a long time."
Figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy in December revealed that the "catastrophic" scale of library closures in Great Britain continued unabated in 2016, with 105 closed in the year to April 2017. Meanwhile, services continue to be bled of funding, with £66m slashed from libraries' budgets over the course of 12 months.
Librarians have also said that the relentless cuts to service are turning the sector into a “war zone” and making it difficult to recruit staff.