Arts Council England (ACE) has launched a new journal devoted to discussing "the value of art and culture".
The magazine, Create, available digitally through ACE's website, features pieces from former prime minister John Major, novelist Naomi Alderman, and an interview with Neil Gaiman speaking at length about libraries.
ACE told The Bookseller that it was intended as a one-off publication, but indicated that a positive reception could lead the organisation to reconsider.
In his foreword to the journal, chair of ACE Peter Bazalgette writes: "Since I became chair of the Arts Council in 2013 I have been describing how public investment brings public benefits and arguing that it is critical that balance of that mixed funding model is maintained. There is a powerful holistic case for public investment in arts and culture – holistic in the sense that all the benefits are interrelated and need to be considered together. This publication argues that case."
In Major's piece, titled The Arts are Not an Add-on, he describes his love for libraries, saying: "I've always loved libraries and even now I am a member of the British Library. As a boy I used public libraries all the time. My family could neither afford many books nor had much space for them."
Novelist Neil Gaiman also speaks about reading and libraries in the issue, saying of library closures: "I think it’s short-sighted. For me, closing libraries is the equivalent of eating your seed corn to save a little money… as far as I’m concerned, closing libraries is endangering the future. You know, at least with the libraries there, you’re in with a chance."
Children's author Michael Morpurgo has also spoken out against library closures in Shropshire, where the council is currently reviewing its own library budget with a view to making savings.
After speaking at the Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury, Morpurgo was quoted in the Shropshire Star as saying: "The important thing to keep this going is to support libraries and not let local authorities close them. Libraries are how people fall in love with books. I know the argument is the internet is taking over but not everybody has the internet – a lot of older people don’t. You can access a range and depth of books in the library that you just can’t do on the internet. They are wonderful places for information and form parts of local communities. Councils say not enough people use them but the answer to that is more investment to make them better rather than close them.”