For much entertainment and enlightenment in my youth I owe a profound debt of gratitude to the Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (pictured. Conscious of the value that libraries had been to him in his youth, he spent a considerable part of his fortune on supplying new ones — more than 2,500 of them — in towns and cities across America and the UK.

One of these was in Peterborough, the city in which I grew up. It was a handsome building (see picture), built in 1906 at a cost of £6,000. I spent many happy hours on the premises. Sometimes I was in the upstairs reference section reading magazines I couldn’t afford to buy, including Modern Railways, The Spectator and Films and Filming (which could usually be relied upon for photographs likely to titillate). More often I was below, scouring the shelves for books to borrow, featuring favourite characters such as Biggles, William Brown, Jennings and Darbishire, Billy Bunter and (best of all!) the Famous Five.

Across the country and throughout America (which had 1,689 of the Carnegie libraries) there were literally millions of other boys and girls similarly occupied (if not necessarily with Films and Filming. Almost all of us, I feel sure, were unaware that we owed our good fortune to the kindness and public-spiritedness of one fine man.

For some reason, Oxfordshire seems not to have required a Carnegie library. Perhaps the various local councils were too proud to ask for one. The closest, Carnegie gift, I think, was in Stratford-upon-Avon, where it was fiercely opposed by the batty novelist Marie Corelli, allegedly a favourite of Queen Victoria. The motive for her objection was said to be architectural, but one wonders if she mightn’t have been more concerned about damage to the sales of her books.

It has been mischievously suggested by the Oxfordshire County Council leader Keith Mitchell that writers’ opposition to his iniquitous planned closure of local libraries is similarly motivated by self-interest. As if the handful of sales to libraries could possibly matter to well-rewarded writers such as Philip Pullman (pictured)and Colin Dexter, who have been most prominent in the campaign against the cuts.

And as for Public Lending Right, the sums involved here are pitifully small, too. In the latest figures I can find from PLR, Mr Pullman comes in at number 221 in the list of most borrowed authors. The creator of Inspector Morse stands at 232.

A study of the figures, incidentally, is most instructive if one wishes to discover who will most suffer from the swinging of Mitchell’s axe. I refer to children, the group most deserving of consideration by any local authority with concern for the future.

In the top ten of most borrowed authors, seven places are occupied by children’s writers. They are Daisy Meadows (number 2), Jacqueline Wilson (3), Francesca Simon (4), Mick Inkpen (6), Julia Donaldson (7), Lauren Child (8) and Lucy Cousins (10).

Recalling, as I have been doing, the delight that library books brought him as a child, Mr Pullman told a recent anti-cuts meeting: “What a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, and share their adventures in your own imagination. No one else even knows what is going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued.”

Is this a gift that Mr Mitchell should be allowed to deny our children?