Northamptonshire County Council has revealed plans to close up to 28 of the county’s libraries in a move that would be “completely unacceptable and completely monstrous” according to Alan Moore, Northampton resident and "Watchmen" creator.
In a bid to save £115m over the next four years, the council has drawn up three proposals regarding the county’s 36 libraries. Two proposals would see the council close 21 libraries, and the third would close 28, leaving only eight branches open.
Liberal democrat councillor Chris Stanbra proposed a fourth option, which would have seen none of the libraries close, but this was rejected by the council last week.
Stanbra told the Guardian he doubted that the council would be able to provide the statutory requirement of a comprehensive and efficient public library service if 21 branches closed. “All of the libraries left would be in the larger urban centres, and this is quite a rural county,” he said. “People here are definitely against the closure of libraries … [they] are the heart of communities.”
Authors have also voiced their disapproval at the closures. Philip Pullman wrote on Twitter: “Somehow we’re letting our civilisation drain away into the sand, and the people in charge don’t think it matters". While Northampton-born Moore described the proposals as “completely unacceptable and completely monstrous” .
"This is in a period where having squandered all our money locally and nationally, our leaders are apparently expecting us - the most vulnerable people - to pick up the tab", Moore the Northampton Echo. “The priorities of this council are appalling. When they have managed to turn a lot of the town into a post-apocalyptic disaster movie, when the Upper Mounts looks like Sarajevo in the 1990s, then how can it be acceptable that beyond this they are also closing down the one means that many people have of actually properly educating themselves."
He added: “The facilities that I relied upon when I grew up in a house that didn't have many books... but there was always the library. It was a treasured institution that made me what I am."
Local authors including Louise Jensen, Sue Moorcroft and Sue Bentley have also signed a letter urging the council to reconsider. They said: "We all oppose any cuts to the service. We grew up using libraries. The free access to books was pivotal in our formative years and we collectively believe it was instrumental in our careers – the love of the written word, formed in our childhoods, shaped us as people and as the writers we all went on to become."
A council spokesperson said the proposals were a result of "significant funding pressures”.
“We are committed to maintaining a library service that continues to serve the people who borrow items and those who use the library for other services, such as computer workshops, registration services and access to borough and district council services," the spokesperson said. "We encourage community groups and other interested organisations to consider whether their local library is a facility they would like to take on and develop as a community space.”
Consultation on the Northamptonshire proposals closes on 13th January and councillors will make a final decision on 22th February.