We're under attack from all sides - authors, readers and the community. I think I smell a cunning government plan here!

The Reading Agency has said libraries should "not be a soft target for cuts" after statistics released last week showed a continued decline in library visitors as a result of which as many as 1,000 libraries in the UK could be under threat from local government cuts. But when you dig deeper into the headline statistics, as The Reading Agency has done, they showed that there was not just a "straightforward picture of a decline in public interest and take up" but that children and young people's use was steady, with children's book borrowing rising for five years in a row, and that libraries do more to deliver added value by playing a vital social role in our communities.

In my own local area, Portsmouth Central Library has already been forced to close all day Friday and Sunday (although it is now temporarily closed for a period of approximately three weeks because vandals flooded it last week). Fortunately the books were not damaged including the very valuable Charles Dickens Collection.

And I know I have banged on about it here before, but if it hadn't been for my own local library I would never have discovered the joy of reading as a child, which led me ultimately to a career in Marketing and PR not to mention a career as an author.  The Reading Agency say that the Summer Reading Challenge for children, and the Six Book Challenge for emergent adult readers as two initiatives provided great opportunities for individuals to develop and improve their literacy skills.

In the libraries where I have given talks there have been clubs and groups of all sorts and sizes for both adults and children. Libraries also play a valuable role in preserving local oral and written history, not just those with literary connections, but also the memories and lives of ordinary people.

The Reading Agency in a statement said: "In tough financial times, we cannot afford to undercut libraries' ability to create a nation of readers, our literacy skills deficit is already too large. The scale of cuts means the library network is unlikely to survive in its current shape, so prioritizing and innovating will be key." It added: "We must not lose sight of libraries' radical social purpose ... They should not be a soft target for cuts."

The cuts in library budgets will not only affect the 'people' but also authors who are coming under attack with the threat of cuts to their Public Lending Rights (PLR).  (Ah, hah, methinks I smell a cunning plan here - if there are no libraries then there's no need to pay PLR).

The Society of Authors (of which I am a member) says:

"The Public Lending Right scheme, under which authors receive 6p when a book is borrowed from a public library, gives effect to a legal right and is not a subsidy. It provides working writers with a modest income when their books are read by library users free of charge."

So if you're an author reading this then you might wish to sign the petition if you feel strongly about it.  And if you're a reader, then you might wish to tell your local council to support libraries.  Or just call in your local library and ask what you can do to make sure they survive and thrive for the benefit of future generations.


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