7:10am Friday 10th December 2010
By Rhianne Pope
OPPONENTS of plans to cut library services in Oxfordshire have backed a campaign led by leading writers to fight the closures.
Twenty of the county’s 43 libraries are under threat after Oxfordshire County Council announced it would withdraw funding.
The plans have been fiercely opposed by readers, with protest groups formed to protect many branches. Library users on Oxford’s Blackbird Leys estate, which is set to lose its branch under the cuts, held a demonstration on Wednesday to show their support.
The protestors supported a campaign by Philip Pullman and other authors urging Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to intervene.Wantage MP Mr Vaizey, the minister responsible for libraries, vowed to write to the council to remind County Hall of its responsibility to maintain “comprehensive and efficient” library services”.
Mr Pullman, who lives in Cumnor and wrote the award-winning trilogy His Dark Materials, joined other writers, including Kate Mosse and Joan Bakewell, in asking Mr Vaizey to “prevent councils inflicting cuts which amount to cultural vandalism.”
They pointed out that Mr Vaizey had been fully against library closures when he was in opposition last year.
Mum-of-two Vicky Thompson, from Blackbird Leys, said: “It would be terrible if the library was closed. There are so many bad things going on round here, so people should have the chance to educate themselves.
“You can walk around this area and see the cycle of ignorance – surely anything that can break that is invaluable.”
Another Oxford library threatened by the cuts is Summertown, where user Gina Cucinello said: “This decision is wrong on so many levels. It is just going to create a bigger divide between the wealthy and the poor – with poorer people unable to get proper access to books or computers.”
Ms Cucinello, who lives in Cutteslowe, added: “I think it is important for people like Mr Vaizey to get involved, because this will affect our whole society in the future.”
Another of the libraries earmarked for closure is in Grove, in Mr Vaizey’s constituency.
Mr Vaizey said a variety of ideas were being explored by councils, including transferring services to communities to run, merging services provided by different authorities and putting libraries in shops.
The libraries under threat in Oxford are:
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