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Suffolk: Top authors condemn libraries axe

09:10 19 January 2011

Baroness Ruth Rendell

Baroness Ruth Rendell

SOME of the country’s top authors have spoken of their shock and anger at Suffolk County Council’s plans to close two thirds of its libraries.

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The council’s proposal to axe 29 branches unless volunteers come forward to run them have been described as “shocking and “a terrible tragedy”.

Baroness Ruth Rendell, who lives near Hadleigh, urged local people to fight against the plans.

“I can’t say how strongly I feel about this; what a shocking thing it is,” she said.

“I’m not surprised by the closures, just the number of closures. I don’t know what they think they’re doing – how can they do this to libraries and do this to books? It’s very bad and sad and awful.”

The 80-year-old crime writer, who has sold millions of copies of her novels and is best known for her Inspector Wexford series, said: “Naturally I don’t like the government – I’m a Labour peer – but the idea of closing 29 libraries?

“There are all kinds of things going on at libraries. They might say people don’t read books like they used to and that may be true but it is a great shame.

“A lot of people can’t afford to buy books, particularly older people who have been reading all their lives.”

She added: “I first went into a public library when I was seven and it was lovely, it was my entrance into books.

“The thing is, if they are closed they will never open again.”

Anthony Horowitz, a best-selling author who has written a string of popular children’s novels, called the council’s plans “extremely sad and short-sighted”.

Mr Horowitz, who has a home at Orford, said: “It seems strange on one hand to be concerned about young people and reading and on the other hand so abruptly and blithely taking away the greatest introduction to reading – free books in the local library. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense.

“I understand the principles of the Big Society and I support the notion of people coming together as volunteers. I will help out myself – but only if I’m asked nicely and not if I’m being pushed into it at gunpoint.”

Comedy writer and satirist Craig Brown, who lives in Aldeburgh, where the town library is earmarked for closure, said: “I do think it’s terrible closing libraries.

“They are an incredible ladder for people who want education and who want books and can’t afford them. I think it should be the lowest on the list of Government cutbacks.”

John McCarthy, a writer, broadcaster and former Lebanese hostage, who lives in the Woodbridge area, said: “Without knowing the financial situation, it is a terrible tragedy that so many libraries are under threat.

“The library is a fantastic resource for children and for everybody to go and read novels and and learn about history.

“It would be a real shame if education, in its broadest sense, is under threat.”

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6 comments

  • It's not one less, it's two-thirds of the libraries in Suffolk. The affect on Ruth Rendell's income will be miniscule. The affect on the communities of Suffolk will be huge. While 19th century patronage of civil amenities was to be applauded at the time, it surely can't be what we want in the 21st century? Especially as the average income of an author in the UK is around £5000 a year (no I haven't missed a nought off). Libraries are cornerstones of our communities and their survival shouldn't be reliant on some lady bountiful doing her bit for charity.

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    Elen C

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

  • Unfortunately, it is silly people like "Fat Lady" who vote for the people who propose to cut libraries. Maybe she'll be singing from a different hymn sheet when she loses free access to the NHS, or public transport. On the other hand, perhaps she's so much better off than the rest of us that she can afford to pay personally for books, medical treatment, transport and all the other things which Pembroke, Andrea Hill and a lot of councillors, some of whom I doubt can do much more than make out and sign their expense and allowance claims, consider unimportant.

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    T Doff

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

  • As 'one of these people', I can say that most authors support libraries NOT for the rather bizarre reason Fat Lady proposes but because they are an invaluable resource for the whole population and an essential support to education. You could say that libraries cost authors sales - people can borrow our books for free. Many people who read books in libraries do so because they can't afford to buy them. The majority of professional authors earn less than the national average wage, and many earn less than the minimum wage. They can hardly afford to sponsor a library! Nor can publishers, as publishing is one of the industries hardest hit in the current recession. There has been massive public support around the country for libraries facing cuts. This support is from people who use libraries, value the chance to read and research for free, continue life-long education and get pleasure from books. Writers also use libraries, of course - to research more books, to read for pleasure and to learn, just like everyone else. I presume Fat Lady doesn't use libraries. Fine. I don't use sports facilities but that doesn't mean I think they should all be scrapped, Maybe I should; after all, they are encouraging people to buy sports equipment and so give money to those greedy manufacturers of sporting goods. Perhaps you have such a money-grabbing attitude to life, FL, but please don't assume other do.

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    StroppyAuthor

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

  • Most of my working life was spent in Suffolk libraries so I know how important and valuable they are to everyone regardless of age or income, a truly democratic institution and one of the few visible benefits from council tax. Books and information provide knowledge and stimulate thought, hence they're seen as dangerous by a government which doesn't want people to find out what's really going on, think about it and ask awkward questions. Close libraries and we further diminish our already eroded power to control out lives.

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    Camasunary

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

  • Well of course these people are going to moan... its one less outlet for people to read their work, get interested and then buy them in shops. Here's an idea... Why dont they volunteer to sponsor a Library, maybe with support of their publisher?

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    Fat Lady Sings

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

  • It is essential to encourage people to read and to search out ideas. Children need access to a wide choice of books - more that the average family can afford. As for public discussion - some local librarians found out only by reading the announcement in the paper - so much for the communication skills of our Council Leader, who gets a wage higher than the prime minister himself. Aldeburgh especially has a literary identity that is too important to jettison, although each library is valuable, wherever it is. Don't let 'them' shut our libraries down.

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    Pat Jourdan

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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