David Walliams, Dame Jacqueline Wilson and David Baddiel are among the writers who have thrown their weight behind a campaign to save libraries in Essex ahead of a large demonstration this weekend.
Tory-controlled Essex County Council has proposed shutting 25 of its 74 libraries, handing 19 others over to community or other organisations and running another 15 in a partnership.
A consultation on the proposals has had more than 21,000 responses and there has been a swathe of protests in the county thanks to a grassroots campaign.
Walliams has now joined in, tweeting a picture of himself with a sign saying “Save Essex libraries”. He said: "I rarely owned books as a child, instead I went to my local library. It was there that I developed my love of reading, and later writing. It makes me sad that children might grow up never having a local library. All libraries need to be saved. When they go, they go forever."
Wilson, Baddiel, AL Kennedy, Michael Rosen and Billy Bragg also lent their support by sharing pictures with a similar sign. Bragg wrote: “Libraries are crucial hubs for inspiring creativity and feeding imagination. Let's not lose them."
The crusade will continue this week in a “Carnival for Libraries” protest on Saturday (8th June) afternoon where campaigners will march from Chelmsford High Street to County Hall.
David Walliams, Jacqueline Wilson and David Baddiel
Organiser Andy Abbott, from Save Our Libraries Essex, said: “It is great to get the backing of such big names, who have also contributed much to children's literature and British culture. These people know just how important libraries are.
"We are now looking to make our family friendly protest on Saturday the biggest the county has seen in decades, to send the message loud and clear. Essex says no to this act of cultural vandalism. The Carnival for Libraries will be both a protest and a celebration of the role libraries play in our culture."
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “We know people are passionate about their local library and are aware of the planned protest taking place at the weekend. It is important to remember that no decisions about any libraries have been made to date. The purpose of the consultation was to find out what people think of our proposals and we are grateful to everyone who responded. Over 21,000 responses to the official consultation were received, expressing a mix of views, both for and against elements of the strategy.
“We need to take time to consider these fully before making any decisions. After the full analysis of the survey results is completed, the final version of the Future Library Service Strategy will be presented to cabinet later this year.”
Like other councils, Essex has blamed a slump in use for the need to make changes, claiming loans have halved in the past 10 years and fewer than a fifth of residents use the service. In Derbyshire, the local authority also plans to cut costs by transferring 20 of its 45 libraries to community organisations, slicing £1.6, from the budget by 2021. The decision was made in December and Derbyshire County Council is currently holding “in-depth discussions” with groups looking to take the facilities on.
A spokesman said: “Communities will be kept informed as to the progress of their community-run library and we have been keeping staff informed at every stage. What we are planning is not new as it is being done by many other local authorities across the country, and we are confident community libraries in Derbyshire will thrive with local people at the helm.”
A L Kennedy, Michael Rosen and Billy Bragg