Hundreds protest against library closures

The Friends and supporters outside the library
The Friends and supporters outside the library
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A ’read-in’ turned into a ‘read-out’ as hundreds of people rallied in Ansdell to show the strength of feeling against County Hall proposals to close more than half of Lancashire’s libraries.

So many people turned out to the event organised by the Friends of Ansdell Library that it was held on the forecourt outside because it wasn’t possible to safely accommodate everyone inside the building.

Lancashire County Council is looking to cut 40 of its current 74 libraries and while no decision on locations has yet been taken, campaigners fear that Ansdell Library –along with some of the other four such facilities in Fylde at St Annes, Lytham, Kirkham and Freckleton – could be among those to be lost under the cost-cutting measures.

The Friends of Ansdell Library have organised a petition against the cuts and also have a public meeting on the issue planned for later this month.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies has already pledged his support and was among those attending Saturday’s ‘read-in’ which also attracted local councillors and authors along with so many supporters that the event had to be held outdoors.

Friends chairman Louise McLaren said: “We had a great response and with more people there than would have safely fit in the library, we held the event outside.

“We collected almost 200 signatures for our petition on the day and we were lucky to be supported by local authors including award winning Sally Green, Joan Woodcock and Philip Caine as well as children’s author and storyteller Dan Worsley who kept the children entertained inside the library, plus local poet Ann Brooks.

“We also had messages of support from authors across the globe, including Alan Whelan, who is in Africa at the moment, Veronica Heley, Chris Mould and Sarah Vincent.

“Mr Menzies spoke as did local councillors Tim Ashton and Richard Redcliffe, while Ben Aitken was also there.

“Everyone took the time to explain why libraries were so important to the local community and what an important part they played in their own lives.

“It was quite moving to hear just how vital having a local library was to all those who spoke.

“Colin Ballard, the Town Crier, announced the event around Ansdell on Friday and Saturday to help draw in the crowds and it was lovely to see so many people from the local community come together to show their support for the library. “The range of supporters we had attending demonstrated the diverse appeal of the library and the important role it plays in people’s lives, whether it is for books, IT, social activities, children’s events, information or support.”

Ahead of the event, the Friends of Ansdell Library had delivered 5,000 leaflets and are hoping for a good turnout at the public meeting to be held at Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College on Tuesday, March 15, starting at 7.30pm.

Louise added: “We are looking for people to bring innovative ideas for how we can help to save the library.

“Please come along and let us have your suggestions for what we can do.”

Mr Menzies said: “The event went extremely well and the number of people who turned out on an extremely fresh Fylde Saturday morning speaks volumes about people’s commitment to their local library.

“I was extremely disappointed by Lancashire County Council’s decision to curtail library services and want them to be really creative in finding ways to maintain what we have.

“I would encourage all library users to ensure they take part in the council’s consultation process to support their local library.

“I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask him to look at what the council is doing to ensure Lancashire is meeting its responsibilities surrounding library service provision.”

Coun Redcliffe said: “Ansdell has a tight-knit community for which our vibrant, successful library operates as a social hub, so this isn’t just about the loss of our library - we would lose what effectively serves as our community centre.”

The County Council says a consultation process over the issue is still ongoing.

A spokesman said: “We have already sought input from the public about what they want to see in the libraries and which services are the most vital to them.

“The results of that initial phase of the consultation are still being analysed. Once that is done, the next phase will follow, with a detailed look at where those services should be located.”