Actor and writer Stephen Fry has decried the deteriorating state of the public library service, saying that libraries need to be protected as they "save lives".
Appearing in a documentary film charting the decline of British public libraries, "The Safe House: A Decline of Ideas", set to premiere at Notting Hill's Gate Picturehouse on 23rd May, Fry said: “We need to understand libraries as places of education and nourishment for everyone – there is a terrible sense that libraries are just an add-on to a council building, but they save lives.”
“A library is one of the few places, in a town or even a large village, where you can go in and immerse yourself in that world,” Fry continued. “To actually have access to a real collection of books, of literature and reference works from across the ages is really important.”
"The Safe House" is a collaboration by filmmaker and poet, Greta Bellamacina and journalist Davina Catt, and also features "Trainspotting" writer Irvine Welsh, who said his library helped him escape trouble in his youth. “When you find a book of a librarian gets you a book there is something about sitting there in the library, you have a whole different relationship with that material,” he said.
Bellamacina added that she used her local library to get through her A Levels. “It was a quiet space to study, one I couldn’t get anywhere else but now that space has gone," Bellamacina said. "It’s really depressing that the role of the library is being taken away because so many of the people we interviewed said that libraries saved their lives.”
Recent figures from the DCMS have revealed that there has been a "significant" decrease in public library usage over the last decade, with usage falling 14.3 percentage points since 2005, while a BBC investigation found that 8,000 libraries jobs have been lost in the last six years and a total of 343 libraries have closed in the same time period, with a future 111 closures planned this year.
"The Safe House" will be shown in independent cinemas.