'Six weeks to save the library sector', campaigners warn

'Six weeks to save the library sector', campaigners warn

<p>Campaigners have warned that there are just &ldquo;six weeks to save the public library service&rdquo; with more than 330 libraries now at risk of closure.</p><p>It is estimated around 1,000 libraries will be threatened with closure next year, out of 4,500 nationally. &shy;Campaigner Desmond Clarke said there were six weeks to save the service before councils finalise their budgets in February.</p><p>Publishers Association chief Richard Mollet said the library sector was facing &ldquo;a real crisis&rdquo;, adding: &ldquo;We hope that government is listening to the plight of libraries, and that it recognises the role they play in promoting literacy and supporting local communities. Local representation will be the key to demonstrating the importance and value libraries have for their individual communities.&rdquo;</p><p>An &ldquo;extremely concerned&rdquo; Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, said: &ldquo;If these 300 libraries close, communities will definitely be adversely affected. Library closures will be bad for education; bad especially for the less affluent; and bad for jobs.&rdquo;</p><p>Culture minister Ed Vaizey wrote to all local authority leaders last week, telling them he wanted to &ldquo;emphasise the importance&rdquo; he places on compliance with their statutory duty to provide a &ldquo;comprehensive and efficient&rdquo; library service under the Public Libraries &amp; Museums Act, 1964. He referred leaders to the Future Libraries Programme for inspiration. </p><p>But Oxfordshire, Lewisham and Cornwall, which are among the 10 councils chosen to lead the Future Libraries Programme, have all recently announced major library closures and Desmond Clarke has described the programme as &ldquo;a classic case of fiddling while Rome burns&rdquo;.</p><p>Campaigners also called the proposed 50% cutbacks to some services &ldquo;dispropor&shy;tionate&rdquo;, given that communities secretary Eric Pickles this week capped council cuts at 8.9%. </p>