Donaldson puts libraries centre stage

Donaldson puts libraries centre stage

New Waterstone's children's laureate Julia Donaldson has vowed to make libraries one of the areas she concentrates on during her two years in the role.

"I care very much about libraries and I'm looking for more opportunities to speak out against the cuts and closures I see as so damaging to our children's future," she told her audience at this morning's announcement ceremony in King's Place, London, to a burst of applause.

Donaldson said she would be visiting Whithorn library in Galloway, a 100-year-old institution now under threat of closure, in 10 days' time, and that she hoped to do a "libraries tour", incorporating her love of drama to ask classes to perform for her in library settings.

Earlier, culture minister Ed Vaizey, also speaking at the laureate ceremony, repeated his claim that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport took its duty to superintend libraries "very seriously".

Vaizey said that though newspapers concentrated on the problem areas, there were "fantastic" library authorities up and down the country. He added that where there were problems, "we engage with those local authorities on a daily basis but tend to do it behind closed doors".

The failure of the DCMS to intervene and order a local inquiry into library closures in hotspots such as Somerset, Gloucestershire and Lewisham has been a source of anger among campaigners, and Vaizey's comments also drew criticism from some members of the laureateship audience.

Penguin children's m.d. Francesca Dow, attending the ceremony as chair of the Publishers Association's Children's Book Group, commented: "He needs to take responsibility for his role. It's not good enough to come to a room full of children's experts and have a woolly line on libraries. It's not endearing."