Gallery: Protesters march to save Leiston library
PUBLISHED: 18:24 06 March 2011 | UPDATED: 18:24 06 March 2011
A CAMPAIGN to save a town’s library took to the streets on Saturday as protesters increased the pressure on council bosses.
More than 200 people joined a protest march in Leiston, parading through the town centre with placards and banners bearing slogans such as “OUR BIG SOCIETY DEMANDS: SAVE LEISTON LIBRARY” and “Libraries keep minds healthy”.
Leiston Library is one of 29 branches across Suffolk under threat of closure after the county council said it could no longer afford to run them.
Council bosses are asking community groups to come forward to take over the running of the libraries, otherwise they will be closed. The plans, which are intended to save more than £2million, are currently out to public consultation.
The march, joined by residents of all ages, began at the town’s primary school and wound its way through the town centre streets to the site of the library in Old Post Office Square.
There, the gathered campaigners cheered speakers including Steve Smedley, who began the campaign to save Leiston Library; James Hargrave, organiser of a similar campaign in Stradbroke; and poet Michael Laskey, who lives in the town and founded the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival.
Mr Smedley said the town had been “energised” by the campaign, following a rally four weeks ago which attracted a similar number of people.
“It was another excellent turn-out and people have been very supportive of the campaign – it shows the strength of feeling about the library, which is used by a huge number of people and groups.”
He added: “The council seems only interested in pushing its divestment agenda no matter what.
“It remains our position that we want to see all libraries across Suffolk retained by the county council and run using full-time, professional library staff.
“The council accuses us of digging our heels in; we accuse the council of not listening to the views or ordinary people.”
But Mr Smedley said the group needed a “Plan B” if their protests fell on deaf ears. “We need to think about how we move things forward from here. We need to explore options if the need arises and we will be engaging with the consultation,” he said.
In Saxmundham, where the library is also under threat, there was a “read-in” to show support for the library and opposition to the council’s plans. People were given 15-minute slots between 10am to 1pm to read books or poems or tell jokes. The event was hosted by organiser Jennie Pink and the husband-and-wife team of author Robin Baum and publisher Liz Calder.
Suffolk County Council is consulting on the future of its libraries until April and has received more than 1,300 replies so far.
In January, it revealed proposals 15 “county” libraries open while divesting 29 “community” libraries, which it is hoped will be run by community groups and volunteer