Authors including Joanne Harris, Kathy Lette and Robert Harris have slammed proposals to shut the library in Hay-on-Wye as “blasphemous” and “disastrously short sighted”.
Powys County Council has revealed plans to close 11 out of the region's 17 libraries in order to save £250,000 by 2019. The local library in Hay-on-Wye - home to the annual Hay Festival of Literature & Arts - has been earmarked for closure under the proposals, i news has reported.
The town's residents have until 31st October to present the council with a "viable" plan outlining how they intend to raise half of the £36,000 needed each year to run their library, the town’s deputy mayor has said.
Lette, an Australian novelist based in the UK, branded the proposals as “blasphemous”.
“How can the country which gave the world its greatest literary giants…keep closing libraries, let alone in a town famous for the literati?” Lette said. “Keep this up and you’ll become a nation of the illiterate. Why you would sabotage your own cultural heritage in this brutal fashion is mind boggling.”
Lette added: “For deprived children, the library is often the only novel thing in their area. It’s a lifeline, an escape, a window to another world – a window the Government must not be allowed to close.”
Joanne Harris also condemned the “disastrously short sighted move”, saying: “[The closure of any library seems] almost expressly designed to rob the poorest communities of their last, free, educational and public resource."
"I’m heartbroken for our country, our society, our communities, our educational system and our future. We used to be in the forefront of the arts: now one in six adults in the UK are functionally illiterate,” she added.
Novelist Robert Harris has argued that libraries have become an "easy target" for councils looking to make cuts and urged Powys council to reconsider its plans.
“One of the only ways this country pays its way in the world is [through] the arts. Most of us [authors] started out taking books out of our local libraries. I certainly did and I owe an awful lot to them,” Harris said. "[Given the] grim [state of the economy], we need libraries [now] more than ever”.
Powys County Council did not respond to requests from i news for comment.