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Children's Laureate condemns library closures

10th September 2012

The campaign to save the nation's libraries has been backed by one of its strongest supporters yet, after bestselling author and Children's Laureate, Julia Donaldson, wrote an open letter to the new culture secretary condemning closures.

In the letter to Maria Miller, who has replaced Jeremy Hunt following David Cameron's latest cabinet reshuffle, The Gruffalo author pleads with the coalition to intervene and provide leadership on the cuts.

The letter was published in the Independent on Sunday and points to a recent study that indicated almost 250 libraries have been closed or been threatened with closure since April.

Donaldson's request to meet with Mrs Miller in person has been accepted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Children's Laureate is set to argue that the UK will suffer from a less literate society if the cuts continue, which could subsequently result in a greater number of social problems arising.

In the letter, the author accused Mrs Miller's predecessor Jeremy Hunt and libraries minister Ed Vaizey of refusing to respond to campaigners' concerns and turning a blind eye to an escalating problem.

'I am particularly concerned about the effect the cuts and closures are having on children's reading. Today many towns have no bookshops. If they also have no library, where are children to find books?' she wrote.

'Is it a surprise that we are always reading horrifying statistics about the number of homes without books?'

In response, the government has expressed its willingness to meet with Donaldson to discuss library provision in the UK, but notes that the buildings have always been funded and run by local authorities.

'They have never been funded by central government and it is right, therefore, that local authorities should have the flexibility to decide how best to provide a library service to their local community,' the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said in a statement.

'We have always been clear that we will not hesitate to use our powers under the 1964 Libraries Act to intervene where there is a clear breach of the statutory duty by a local authority to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service.'

Though the meeting between Donaldson and the government is unlikely to result in any immediate changes to local authorities' short-term plans regarding libraries, campaigners hope the Children's Laureate can provide the gravitas needed to sway long-term intentions.

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