Neil Gaiman joins Hampshire authors opposing plans to close libraries

POPULAR authors from across Hampshire are joining forces to fight back against plans to close almost a dozen libraries.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 13th January 2020, 10:13 am

Plans published in a consultation by Hampshire County Council propose that up to 10 libraries could be closed, including libraries in Lee-on-the-Solent, Elson in Gosport, Emsworth, and Horndean.

It comes as the council looks to make budget cuts that will make up for a £80m shortfall by 2021.

But now some of Hampshire's biggest authors have written an open letter to the council, protesting against the proposed £1.76m reduction.

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Libraries across Hampshire are at risk of closure

Signatories include Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline and American Gods; Philip Hoare, who wrote Leviathan and The Sea Inside; and Portsmouth-based Pauline Rowson, author of Tide of Death and A Killing Coast.

She said: ‘Coming from a rather poor household where my parents didn't read books and couldn't afford to buy them I was introduced to a new small local library by a friend's mother when I was about seven or eight and entered a magical kingdom that fired my imagination, helped me escape the world, inspired my lifelong love of reading and fuelled me with the ambition to become an author.

‘It took me a while to achieve the latter but the library and reading helped my education and so my career possibilities.’

Portsmouth crime author, Pauline Rowson

A total of 39 authors have signed the petition, with others also vowing to put their name to paper.

Author James McConnachie said: ‘We got the letter together in just 24 hours.

‘These are savage attacks given how library services have been cut in the past.

‘It’s a step too far and I feel lied to.’

Elson Library is one of the sites earmarked for potential closure. Picture: Sarah Standing (1315-288)

Gosport author Averil Branson dreads the idea of children growing up without libraries.

She said: ‘It would be such a shame to see so many libraries close down.

‘It's worrying news because children could grow up without the experience of going to a library and falling in love with reading.’

The closure of 10 libraries is one of the options considered by Hampshire County Council, with another to reduce opening hours by up to 25 per cent, or a mix of the two.

The public consultation runs until March 18.