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Save libraries appeal from Suffolk writers

Writers and officers of the Suffolk Book League have signed an open letter to Suffolk County Council. Here it is:

The Suffolk Book League, or SBL for short, is an educational charity established in 1982 to encourage and promote a love of reading in our county. For many years we have supported the Suffolk County Council’s excellent Book Mastermind Competition for schools in which children answer questions on their favourite book followed by a round of general knowledge. We also work with the Library Service on adult literacy projects. One of our founders (along with our President, Margaret Drabble, who is a signatory to this letter) was the then County Librarian, Peter Labdon. We have always enjoyed a mutually constructive relationship with the., Council’s Library Service.

We read with dismay of the plan to close 29 of the County’s 44 libraries unless they are “saved” by local residents. The Council must not forget that it has certain legal obligations with regard to libraries; but, even more important, it has a moral obligation.

It may be that some libraries will be taken over by local volunteers but will they be able, in the long term, to maintain the necessary staffing levels; will they have the knowledge and the funds to order and maintain the stocks, the IT and the fabric of the premises”? We fear that libraries will inevitably disappear, some immediately and some over time, and that this is most likely to happen in those areas which need them most.

We all know of children whose lives were transformed by free access to a local library. We all know of friends and neighbours who love to read but can only afford to buy a few books a year.

The signatories to this letter are writers with a Suffolk connection or honorary officers of the SBL. We all ask the Council to reconsider its reckless policy. The relatively modest sum to be saved would be far outweighed by the social cost over many generations.

The Council Should be immensely proud of its Library Service. Please think again.

Yours faithfully,

• Louis de Bernières
• Nicci Gerrard
• Robert Radcliffe
• Dr Ronald Blythe
• Michael Holroyd
• Dame Ruth Rendell
• Liz Calder
• Elizabeth Jane Howard
• Meg Rosoff
• Jon Canter
• Kate Kellaway
• Norman Scarfe MBE
• Ian Collins
• Blake Morrison
• Roma Tearne
• Dame Margaret Drabble
• Jonathan Myerson
• Francis Wheen
• Sean French
• Julie Myerson
• Ann FouIds
• Bernardine Freud
• Anne Parry
• Alan Vaughan
• Esther Freud
• Kay McElhinney
• Brian Morron

Wordblog note: There is now confusion about the number of libraries threatened. The definitions of county and community libraries on which the numbers in the letter are based have been abandoned (the council has made no formal announcement of this) and a new classification of three hub libraries introduced. The old classifications remain in the consultation documents.

The East Anglian Daily Times has a story on its website but the letter is in the printed editions.

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