Messages of support for the campaign have been pouring in from authors and other celebrities, appalled by GCC’s plans for devastating and disproportionate cuts to our library service:
Award winning, internationally acclaimed, best-selling author Yann Martel.
We are absolutely thrilled to have received a message of support from internationally acclaimed author Yann Martel. His second novel, ‘Life of Pi’ won the Man Booker Prize in 2002.
In times of economic duress, the library, free and open to all, where thinking can be done, where plans can be hatched, becomes an essential service, the equivalent to the mind of what the hospital is to the body.
If a people had the anatomy of a single human figure, than the public library would be the brains of that figure, the place where thoughts, memories and hopes are stored, the place where laughter and new ideas came from. To cut a library system down to its bare bones is then the equivalent of a lobotomy.
I completely support John Holland’s entirely reasonable, constructive, and excellent letter to Councillor Hawthorne. I only hope that the council has the intelligence – and the grace – to listen to his objections and his proposals, and to change their minds before Gloucestershire becomes a byword for depriving the very people, who need and value it most, of a vital and hardly expensive service.
I think it is very short-sighted to close libraries, especially because that is where a lot of children gain and develop a love of books and reading and can extend their repertoire. Sometimes governments and local authorities seem to forget that children are the adults of the future.
I used to love going to my local library as a child, and quite possibly if it hadn’t been for my excellent librarian who introduced me to a wide range of books I wouldn’t be an author today. (After 50 years I am now back in touch with that librarian.) My own children also used to enjoy their jaunts to the library, and when they were small it was the main way they and I found out and sampled the wide range of books which are out there but which are not always evident in bookshops with their 3-for-2 policies. In any case, with so many bookshops closing, there is even more of a need for libraries.
What’s more, many libraries are venues for mother-and-toddler rhyme-time sessions and the like, so their closure would be a big blow to those children, parents and carers.
Maybe the thinking is that it’s an easy way to save money, but I don’t believe that’s the case, as a less literate population will be one with more crime, social problems and all the attendant costs. So keep our libraries open!
Best-selling novelist Kate Mosse:
I’m writing to express my support for the campaigners who wish to protest against the particularly savage cuts being proposed to the library service in Gloucestershire.
Although all authors understand that these are tough times, the British library service continues to be the envy of the world. Libraries are places were all members of a community can come together, on an equal footing, to do homework, to read, to learn, possibly even to write their first novel. Librarians are in the frontline in the fight against illiteracy in the UK, an essential part of the team that helps each child, and each adult, to achieve their reading and writing potential. In rural areas, many residents rely especially on their local library and for some older members of the community, they are at the heart of weekly life.
All authors understand that there must be savings, but fear that the library closures being proposed will be a short-term solution that will have very significant long-term consequences for our cultural and literary life.
Comedian and writer Stewart Lee:
William Tyndale, a Gloucestershire man, made the bible available in English for ordinary people for the first time ever, and the skyline of the county is crowned with a monument to him. How sad that Gloucestershire itself should now be making such backward steps in the provision of the written word for everyone.
Award winning comedian and writer Robin Ince:
It seems it is money versus books – it doesn’t take long to read a ten pound note and once you’ve enjoyed looking at Charles Darwin’s face, the rest is pretty boring. Unfortunately it seems that this society is obsessed with money over real standards of living. The library for many children is the start of their journey into the imagination, wonder and learning that lie within books. For many elderly people on limited incomes, it is the only opportunity to continue the reading they began 70 years before in their public library.
Libraries are for everyone. Excessive bonuses and Cayman Island tax havens are not. Let’s hope Gloucestershire County Council sees sense and doesn’t chip away at one of the institutions of our society that makes us a civilisation.
Bestselling Stroud-based novelist Katie Fforde:
Libraries are about much more than books, they are focal points of communities. Once they have gone, the community will dissipate. And they are important because they are free. It is the poor who will suffer most if they disappear. Libraries are part of the route out of poverty. Closing them is madness.
Cheltenham-based children’s illustrator Tony De Saulles sent us a statement of support and this illustration.
Having visited many of the Gloucestershire libraries to hold drawing workshops with the local children, I have seen firsthand how vitally important libraries are in a community. I am opposed to the shockingly large cuts that loom over the library service and hope that the situation can be reversed when the powers that be are reminded of the support that libraries have and the crucial service that they provide.
Tony De Saulles
Forest of Dean-based children’s author and illustrator Shoo Rayner:
Shoo has put his thoughts on library cuts into a video, which you can watch here.
Best-selling author and trainer Neil Griffiths: a Primary School headteacher for 13 years before taking on the role of director of a National Literacy Project for the Basic Skills Agency. Neil set up what is now the worldwide, highly acclaimed, and award-winning StorySack® phenomenon.
As a local author and trainer for the Gloucestershire Library Service staff, I wish to add my voice to the campaign against the proposed cuts to funding. I have spent the last 15 years, both as the Director of a National Literacy Project and now as a Freelance Trainer, working alongside parents and practitioners highlighting the importance of catching and nurturing a love of reading at a young age. Central to all this work has been the importance of exposing children to a range of good reading material that is accessible to any parent. Naturally it is our wonderful Public Library Service, (which is the envy of the world!) that provides just this, in ever improving environments run by expert Library staff. If we are to lose Libraries and the expertise they offer, where is this vital service to be provided and by whom? I am proud to be from a country that allows a child to borrow up to 16 books at a time to enjoy! I hope I will continue to be proud and that Libraries in Gloucester and nationally, are protected from major funding cuts to ensure every child has the chance of discovering the joy of reading!
Gloucestershire-based children’s author John Dougherty:
A properly-funded library service is the backbone of education and the heart of a civilised society. If our banks are ‘too big to fail’ then our libraries are certainly too important to lose, and there can be no justification for bailing out one at the cost of the other. I’m a great believer in the importance of public libraries, and when I visit schools to talk about my books I often use the opportunity to promote the local library.
Cheltenham-born author and editor Anna Bowles. Anna’s story is an illustration of the important role that libraries play in the lives of many children and young people:
I am dismayed to read that Hesters Way library is under threat of closure. I grew up on Orchard Avenue in the 1980s, with parents who didn’t have much education themselves but who encouraged me to read. The library provided the supply of books I needed, and was part of my familiar local world in a way that Cheltenham Central Library could not have been. I went on to get a scholarship to the Ladies College, and later to become a children’s author and editor myself. I understand the arguments about limited budgets, but I can’t imagine that closing one of the few attractive and useful public buildings in one of the county’s most deprived areas makes long- or even medium-term sense. The Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign has my full support, and I wish them all the best in persuading the council to reconsider their proposals.
Current Children’s Laureate, Anthony Browne:
I fully support the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries campaign against such horrendously damaging cuts to the library service. Welcoming, well-stocked and staffed libraries are absolutely essential to any civilised community.
Author and historian Alison Weir:
Libraries give access to the written word, to learning and information, broadening minds and facilitating study. I thoroughly endorse what Francis Barton, Joanna Trollope and others have said. This is cultural madness.
Gloucestershire-based novelist, poet and playwright, Alice Jolly:
I am entirely opposed to these library cuts. Libraries are an essential service and are vitally important to local communities. At present, social mobility in this country is at an all time low. Cutting funds for libraries is only going to make that situation worse. I congratulate the Friends’ of Gloucestershire Libraries on their campaign and offer them my full support.
Local poet Peter Wyton.
Peter is currently appearing on Mark Cumming’s morning show on B.B.C. Radio Gloucestershire on the first Monday of each month as the station’s Breakfast Bard.
‘The Peter Wyton poem’ also appears monthly in ‘Cotswold Life’.
Peter will be performing at a “Read-In” at Cheltenham Library on 5th February as part of the national day of protest against library cuts (more details to follow) in the meantime Peter has sent us his poem “Noisy Library”
Amberley-based author Cherry Gilchirst:
I love my local library at Nailsworth, and use it frequently to browse books, pick up reserved titles, chat to the ever-helpful librarians and admire how well used and well kept it is. I also note how many people come into use the internet, and reckon that for many of them this is the only place they can surf and research as they need. If it is to be closed (apart from a derisory three hours a week) it will leave a huge hole in the community.
Going to Stroud as the next nearest one consumes petrol, parking fees and there is nothing like the same atmosphere or sense of space. I am sure that the Stroud librarians also do a good job, but the Stroud library already seems to be to be oversubscribed – what will further pressure there be like, if our local branches are closed?
Gloucestershire-based writer, performance poet, and educator Marcus Moore:
I have lived and worked in Gloucestershire for 35 years, during which time I have not only been a frequent user of my local library, but also run countless workshops in libraries for children and adults.
One of the hallmarks of a civilised society is its willingness to provide public services that enable, enhance and enrich the lives of all its citizens. The local library is a vital part of a thriving community, providing exciting educational opportunities and essential resources, particularly for children, the elderly, and those on lower incomes.
I am appalled by the proposed cuts to the county’s library service and fully support the Friends’ campaign.
Gloucestershire-based education writer Joanna Reid:
I still remember the pleasure I got as a child from browsing shelves, selecting books with bright coloured dots on their spines and reading their covers during a visit to a library. The layout, the librarians, the posters on the walls and even the smell remain vividly in my memory some 25 years later. Today I see that joy in the eyes of my own three children during our regular library visits – sometimes to research homework tasks, sometimes to take a peek at what’s new in the world of fiction and sometimes to join in a sing-along or to have a story read out loud to us.
What a travesty that our libraries are currently under threat and that future generations may not benefit from the delight, access to knowledge and the sense of community that our fantastic libraries offer.