Gibbons calls for public debate on libraries

<p>Campaigner Alan Gibbons has called for a &quot;robust&quot; public debate on the library service between MLA chief executive Roy Clare and culture minister Ed Vaizey on the one hand and campaigners from what he describes as &quot;the growing Save Our Libraries movement&quot; on the other.</p><p>Gibbons&#39; call comes following a furore over a Daily Mail article concerning comments from Clare that &quot;Public libraries will not be preserved by wishful thinking and aspic&quot; and that libraries should &quot;serve the whole community, not simply the privileged, white middle class&quot;. The MLA has said the newspaper article is &quot;misleading, distorted and defamatory&quot; and complained to the Daily Mail&#39;s editor. The article has now been removed from the newspaper&#39;s online site.</p><p>However, Gibbons said Clare&#39;s comments invited discussion and that &quot;clear differences&quot; about the future size and nature of the library service must be acknowledged.</p><p>&quot;Roy accepts that large-scale closures are necessary and justified because of the state of the public finances,&quot; he said. &quot;He believes for example that the Oxfordshire programme of closures is &lsquo;courageous.&rsquo; I think that the closure programme is too draconian and disproportionate and that it will save very little money, even if considered purely on its own terms.&quot;</p><p>He added: &quot;I think most of the areas cutting 50% or more of their libraries: Somerset, Gloucestershire, Lewisham, Doncaster, Isle of Wight and many more are breaking the 1964 Libraries Act&rsquo;s commitment to a &ldquo;comprehensive and efficient&#39; and improving service...I don&rsquo;t believe the current wave of proposed closures is a rational and considered response to economic pressures but a rushed and at least partially ideological one.&quot;</p><p>The campaigner said a venue should be found for some &quot;robust, cordial and rigorous debate&quot; between the opposing views.</p>