A group comprising librarians and authors are mapping the libraries across Britain that are under threat of, or have already succumbed to, closure or reduction in staff and services. The screengrab above illustrates the imperilled libraries of London, but the grim picture is repeated across much of the country.
Some of the worst hit areas in the capital are Brent (where there's a petition to save Kensal Rise library) and Croydon, which could lose six libraries. Five libraries apiece in Lewisham and Barking & Dagenham are also under threat. Things are likely to get much worse, too, as the full impact of the coalition's cuts nip into local council budgets. The information has been compiled by Public Libraries News, and their website offers some advice on what to do if you want to help.
We can easily blame the children of Thatcher for their book-snatching ways, but surely, in our multi-screen, omni-connected world many of us are no longer availing ourselves of what the local library offers? Actually, figures last year from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy showed a tiny drop in visitor numbers, though this was perhaps accounted for by a nationwide fall in staffing levels. A survey in the autumn published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council revealed that, while books are still the core reason people visit a library, there are concerns about books being "squeezed out" by other services.
However, 31% of those surveyed also said they'd welcome a coffee shop on site. With their budgets set to decline in the tough year ahead, libraries may have to balance measures that bring in revenue, however small, to help support the community role they've always played.