TOP authors and hundreds of people across Oxfordshire sent a clear message to County Hall on Saturday: Hands off our libraries!.

People joined the protest over Oxfordshire County Council’s controversial plan to halt funding for 20 out of 43 libraries.

Mark Haddon, most famous for his 2003 book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, was at Blackbird Leys library.

He attacked the plan and also the Government’s Big Society idea, which aims to get more people involved in their own communities.

Mr Haddon, who lives in Jericho, told the audience: “This Big Society stuff is rubbish.

“What they mean is smaller Government, and the excuse to cut funding to anything from drama groups to the NHS.

“A lot of the people behind it live in big houses and are privileged, and just don’t understand why these services are so vital to so many people.

“Libraries are one of the only spaces open to everyone, whether you are homeless or a professor of Latin.

“This is the Big Society – us being here, being angry and wanting to take action.”

Protests were also held at Botley and Summertown libraries in the city.

Children’s novelists Philip Pullman and Julia Golding, were among other big names to join the protests.

Wendy Fowler, from Cowley, took her daughters Millie Peach, aged 10, and Lily Peach, five, to Blackbird Leys library to show support.

She said: “I have been taking them to libraries since before they could even walk.

“They are so important, because they are both educational and fun and foster a child’s enjoyment of books and reading.”

Meanwhile, TV presenter Kirsty Young was at Bampton library, in Church View, where more than 200 people turned up.

Jane Wallace, who helped organise that event, said: “It was absolutely tremendous, beyond our wildest dreams.

“The support from the village was wonderful, and we had people of all ages registering their opposition to the closure.

“It really showed the weight of public feeling in this village.”

The Government has called on people to work as a Big Society, with communities working together to run and finance projects which authorities can no longer afford to fund.

Morse creator Colin Dexter, sci-fi writer Brian Aldiss and journalist Peter Hitchens have hit out at the planned cuts in recent weeks.

The Conservative-controlled county council believes the closures, to be decided on February 15, would save the authority £2m over the next four years.

It aims to cut £119m from its budget by 2015 due to reduced central funding.

The Oxford Mail was unable to contact council leader Keith Mitchell last night.

However, he said last week: “I welcome people’s support for our libraries. I hope we can translate that support into keeping libraries open where we may not be able to fund them ourselves.” l See letters on page 16 for county council leader Keith Mitchell’s say on the future of libraries.