Author fights to stop library closures

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Alan Gibbons with fan at the Corbett school, Baschurch © Picture by Alex Taylor.

Alan Gibbons with fan at the Corbett school, Baschurch © Picture by Alex Taylor.

Liverpool award-winning children’s author Alan Gibbons is fighting the city council’s proposal to close half of Merseyside’s libraries next year in a bid to save £1m.

Overall, the council have announced that they need to save £32m over the next year, which means that libraries are seriously affected.

As many as ten libraries out of 19 that are currently functioning in Liverpool could face closure from April next year.

Liverpool’s central library is due to re-open this May after a refurbishment funded by the council  costing nearly £2m per year as part of the Private Finance Initiative deal (PFI)

The council plan to keep the central library and two others, which have not yet been revealed, open seven days a week, but many other libraries will see their opening hours slashed and many jobs could be at risk.

There will also be the option for library members to download books online, which could save up to £1m per year.

Alan Gibbons has liaised with Mayor Joe Anderson to stress that Liverpool needs a moratorium on closures.

He said that surrounding areas such as Cheshire and Salford have thriving libraries and they are not being affected like Liverpool.

Mr Gibbons told JMU Journalism: “I think it’s distressing to lose over half of libraries after we’ve lost three.

“I’m dubious about it on a national scale because children’s borrowing has gone up 6.9% and the borrowing as a whole has only gone down 4%, which is still considered to be healthy.

“ Young and old have the least independent transport in our communities and are most dependent on our central library.

“Let’s work together to improve our libraries before they close – because once they do face closure, it will be forever.”

At this week’s announcement Mayor Joe Anderson said: “This has been a horrendous process in which we have had to make some extremely difficult and hard choices in order to balance the books for the next financial year, but also to prepare for the following year.

“We are now at the stage where those options have gone and we are having to prioritise one front-line service over another.

“It is really, really tough to be contemplating reducing or withdrawing good services which are a lifeline for people.

“I completely understand that some people will be extremely unhappy at what is being proposed. They have every right to be angry, because I am as well.

“The simple fact is that we get 80% of our funding from the government, and the savage cut in our grant means we are the hardest hit city in the country.”

About Sara Ainsworth, JMU Journalism