Authors slam 'shameful' Hampshire library closures

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image captionA deputation of authors handed in a letter of protest at Hampshire County Council offices in Winchester

Dozens of authors have labelled planned library closures in Hampshire as "backward and shameful".

Up to 10 libraries have been earmarked for closure as part of county council proposals to save £1.76m.

The newly-formed Hampshire Authors for Libraries group - including Neil Gaiman, David Nicholls and Rebecca Smith - has opposed the plans.

The authority maintained it was "absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service".

Conservative-run Hampshire County Council launched a ten-week public consultation over the future of libraries as it tries to cut £80m from its budget.

The proposals also include cutting the opening hours of its remaining 38 libraries by an average of 15%.

In an open letter, the Hampshire Authors for Libraries group said: "If local culture is to flourish and local communities are to thrive then libraries are vital. 

"To close a library is to say we do not value culture, we do not value community, we do not want to give children a chance. We will put pressure on Hampshire County Council until they think again."

Among more than 40 writers who put their names to the letter were One Day writer David Nicholls, children's author Ali Sparkes and Neil Gaiman, whose novel Good Omens has been adapted for television and is currently being screened on BBC Two.

Recreation councillor Sean Woodward previously blamed the cuts on a lack of central government funding and changes in people's habits.

"We've seen in the last 10 years something like two million fewer books being issued per year so it's a huge change. But we want to make sure that the libraries which are open are thriving, well run, well attended and well used by our residents," he said.

About 400 people currently work for Hampshire's library service.

image captionFair Oak Library in Eastleigh is one of the 10 facing closure

The libraries earmarked for closure are:

  • Blackfield and Lyndhurst in the New Forest
  • Chineham and South Ham in Basingstoke
  • Elson and Lee-on-the-Solent in Gosport
  • Emsworth in Havant
  • Fair Oak in Eastleigh
  • Horndean in East Hampshire
  • Odiham in Hart

The consultation on the proposals will continue until March.

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