Gallery: Campaigners' day of action to save libraries
PUBLISHED: 13:58 07 February 2011 | UPDATED: 14:07 07 February 2011
CAMPAIGNERS turned out in their hundreds across Suffolk as part of a national day of action to save libraries.
Suffolk County Council has said it can no longer afford to run 29 of its 44 libraries as it bids to make more than £2million savings.
It has asked communities and voluntary groups to come forward to take over their libraries – but if deals cannot be reached, the threatened branches will close.
On Saturday, campaigners stages protests and “read-ins” at threatened libraries, including Leiston, Stradbroke, Bungay and Rosehill in Ipswich.
Steve Smedley, who is running a campaign to save Leiston Library, said nearly 200 people had joined the protest.
He said if the library, in Main Street, closed, people would have 25 to 30-mile round trips to the nearest branch.
“I was amazed by the turnout,” he said. “It is very clear the people of Leiston are very passionate about the service and keen that it should continue running.
“It was a big expression of support for the campaign and a rejection of the county council’s proposals. We will keep the pressure up.”
Mr Smedley said a march through the town in protest at the county council’s plans was planned for March 5.
James Hargrave, one of the organisers of the Stradbroke protest, said about 220 people had turned up. “We know very well people want to keep the open but we were surprised by the strength of feeling,” he said.
Dozens of residents conducted a “read-in” and encouraged people to sign a petition against its closure. Video messages of support were also recorded and placed on the village’s website.
Mr Hargrave said the village would need to find £20,000 a year to keep the library running which was simply unaffordable.
“For people who work and can go elsewhere it may not make a big difference but for children, particularly young children and older people, this library is a lifeline and one of the only services we have left in Stradbroke,” he added.
A public meeting to discuss the county council’s plans will take place at Stradbroke Community Centre on February 21 at 7.30pm.
Famous names from the world of literature and the arts joined hundreds of local people at Bungay in a swell of support for the facility.
Among those taking part was 87-year-old novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard CBE, who lives in the town.
She said the library was of “paramount importance” to local people and added: “If you take away a library it hits poor people the hardest.
“Well-off people can buy books for their children, but a lot of people cannot afford to do that. If we want our children to read we have got to make books freely available.”
Fellow author Rachel Hore and television actress Matilda Ziegler, who lives at Denton and is a regular user of the library, also joined the protest in Wharton Street,
Josiah Meldrum, of Sustainable Bungay, which is campaigning to save the library, said: “The library is incredibly important. To lose it would be a disaster. It has a socially important function and is part of the fabric that holds us together as a town.”
The council has launched a consultation on the future of its libraries, which runs until April. Suffolk’s libraries currently cost just under £9m a year to run.