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Yorkshire and Lincolnshire libraries in the front line

Len Tingle | 16:59 UK time, Friday, 3 December 2010

Benjamin Zephaniah the internationally acclaimed, Lincolnshire-based, poet agrees volunteers could help save small libraires.

Benjamin Zephaniah the agrees volunteers could help save small libraires.

Benjamin Zephaniah says libraries were his life saver.

The internationally acclaimed poet who now lives in South Lincolnshire says that at thirteen he was handling guns as part of the gang culture in his native Brimingham.

"I found poems and found libraries," he says on this Sunday's Politics Show for Yorkshire Lincolnshire and the North Midlands. "This was my school, my life, my little university,"

He now supports the idea that volunteers could step in to save rural libraries in his adopted county.

The county's network of forty eight libraries, many of them in small communities, are in the frontline of forthcoming spending cuts which will see budgets slashed by a third..

Lincolnshire County Council says it needs volunteers to come together to help turn their local library into a 'community hub'.

Lincolnshire is not alone.

North Yorkshire County Council says it is looking at shutting 24 of its smaller libraries to save two million pounds over the next four years.

Leeds City Council is planning to cut almost three million pounds over the same period by closing 20 of its 53 branches.

In fact, the coalition government's public spending crisis is speeding up a process which has been going on for the past decade. During that period one-in-five libraries in smaller communities has shut.

Every year the number of books available to borrow on library shelves across the nation has dwindled by around two million volumes.

The librarians' organisation, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, says councils see their members as a "soft" cut when times are hard.

Councils have a legal duty to provide library services according to the Public Libraries and Musuems Act of 1964.

The problem is that there is little definition of what "adequate provision" means.

The other issue is that times have changed since the 1940s when public libraries were one of the few sources of the written word outside of schools, colleges and universities.

Many of our councils have pumped large chunks of their budgets into refurbishing and modernising their biggest libraries and turning them into "multi-media hubs".

That leaves little for the tiny libraries which have already seen hours cut to the bone.

The message from both the Government and the councils appears to be the same.

If you want to keep your local library then you might have to run it yourselves.

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