Hundreds of people are set to march from St Annes to Lytham via Ansdell this weekend amid fears that several of the area’s five libraries could face the axe under Lancashire County Council proposals to close more than half of the current total of 74 across the county.
The Big Book Walk through south Fylde is being led by the Friends of St Annes Library, two weeks after the Friends of Ansdell Library staged a ‘read-in’ to protest at the proposals. That attracted so many people that it had to be staged outdoors.
The Ansdell Friends are following up with a public meeting next Tuesday and in the meantime, have joined the the St Annes Friends in urging as many people as possible to join this Saturday’s protest.
The walk will start at St Annes Library – a Carnegie library which dates back to 1906 – at 9.30am, arriving at Ansdell Library at approximately 11am, before Lytham Library at around 1pm.
Stories and poems will be read along the way, as well as points of local history and Pam Foster, secretary of the Friends of St Annes Library, said: “We hope lots of people will come along and support this event.
“The walk is open to all and we would be delighted to see whoever wants to join us for all or part of the route.
“We will be fighting to keep St Annes Library open and organising other events similar to the Big Book Walk.”
Louise McLaren, chairman of the Friends of Ansdell Library, said: “We are definitely supporting the Big Book Walk.
“This is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the threat to all the libraries across the Fylde as many people are still not aware that so many libraries are faced with closure.
“We are expecting many supporters of our libraries to join the walk, either from St Annes to Ansdell at 9.30am or from Ansdell to Lytham at 11am or both.”
Pam added: “St Annes Library is strongly supported by the Friends, who organise many fund-raising events, together with keep fit classes and knitting groups.
“The Friends have also been instrumental in creating a Library Reading Garden, which is an important feature at St Annes.
“The Royal Horticultural Society recognised the importance of the garden to the local community by presenting it with an In Your Neighbourhood Award last year.”
“Libraries are part of the fabric of our communities – in particular the young and the elderly depend on them for information, recreation, access to computers and the like.”
The County Council, looking to make £262m worth of budget cuts by 2020, have announced that 40 of the current 74 libraries across the county face the axe.
But it will be some time before it is known which libraries across the county are to close, with the second phase of a detailed consultation process just getting under way.
The Friends of Ansdell Library’s public meetig will be held at Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College on Tuesday, starting at 7.30pm and Louise said: “It will focus on Ansdell Library, though of course the wider issue of libraries across the Fylde and Lancashire as a whole is likely to be discussed. We do not want any of our libraries to close.
“We recognise the budget pressures that LCC are under but do not believe that the full societal impact of closing libraries has been considered for with regard to the well being of library users and the community as a whole.
“We are really keen to get lots of ideas for how we can look for novel ways to use the library that will help to secure its future.
“If we can be innovative in how we think about the role of libraries we might be able to make a difference.
“We will be actively sharing any good ideas we get as we are keen to help all the libraries across Lancashire that might be facing closure.”
Anyone intending to attend the meeting can let the Friends know by email at [email protected] or via www.facebook.com/save.ansdell.library are welcome to turn up on the night. Anyone driving is asked to use the Worsley Road entrance.
The battle to save Fylde’s libraries, which includes Kirkham and Freckleton as well as the three in the Lytham St Annes area, is being backed by the area’s MP Mark Menzies, who said: “Libraries are run by local authorities but they have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive service under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and I am determined Lancashire continues to fulfil its responsibilities.
“Over the years, even before the financial crisis, I heard many well-rehearsed arguments about budget constraints as councils have looked to close libraries across the country. However, I know that many local authorities have managed to avoid library closures altogether, despite reductions in their budgets.”