Public opposition to a plan by the county council of Lincolnshire in eastern England to close or outsource to volunteers 32 of the county’s 47 libraries has been building, in the shape of a petition campaign that has so far garnered over 20,000 signatures, as well as support from singer and actress Minnie Driver.
Protest moves include street demonstrations outside County Hall in Lincoln, and statements by local MPs, with the Lincolnshire Echo reporting that Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill himself signed the anti-closure petition. The plan is in its consultation period before implementation, and is part of an attempt to save £2 million ($3.1 million) from the council’s budget.
“Libraries are vitally important to people of all ages,” said historian Mary Beard, quoted in This Is Lincolnshire, a Lincolnshire Echo website. “They are vital for children’s education and them getting access to books and technology. They provide learning resources and pleasure.”
In the Gainsborough Standard, meanwhile, local MP Sir Edward Leigh described the plan as “completely unacceptable.”
“We all understand that in these trying times councils have to make difficult decisions about the services they provide, but our libraries are an absolutely fundamental and irreplaceable part of our way of life here in Lincolnshire,” he said. “Yes, changes should be made to make our libraries more affordable and more sustainable in the long term, but these proposals put our entire library culture at risk.”
Council members backing the plan have been advocating new ways of supporting libraries, including work with local cooperative and community groups. They claim that the rising cost of running libraries is part of the problem, although reasons for the cost escalation are not clear.
Lincolnshire is the birthplace of Sir Isaac Newton, and the library at King’s School Grantham still bears the signature of the young scientist, engraved on a windowsill. But if Lincolnshire county council get their way, future local Will Huntings may have to go elsewhere to school themselves.