2:00pm Thursday 21st July 2011
By Harry Hogger
CAMPAIGNERS pre-paring to fight for Dorset’s Libraries today have received support from an author schooled in the county.
Romantic fiction writer Santa Montefiore has lent her support to the Ad Lib (Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries) as councillors vote on the future of the library service.
Members of Dorset County Council will vote on whether to withdraw funding to nine libraries in a bid to save £800,000 or retain all 34 of the county’s libraries and make savings through cuts across the service.
Ad Lib members will be protesting before the full council meeting today and speaking at the meeting to call for the retention of the library network.
Former Sherborne School for Girls pupil Ms Montefiore, whose novels include The Affair and The Italian Matchmaker, has just offered late support for Ad Lib campaigners with a letter to Dorset County Council leader Angus Campbell.
She wrote: “It’s appalling that such a large number of libraries are under threat of closure, not only because it will rob locals of their access to books, but that it will also rob the community of a tranquil place to study, read and attend events that bring people together in an increasingly isolating world.
“Times are hard, I think it’s a human right that people should be given the means to escape the dreariness by reading the wonderful books available in libraries.
“I do hope a solution can be found before these vital oases are lost.”
Meanwhile, more high profile Tories have backed a campaign to spare libraries from the threat of closure.
West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin and Conservative peer Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, better known as Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes, have both offered their support for the Ad Lib campaign.
Tory MP for South Dorset Richard Drax and the Conservative North Dorset MP Bob Walter have also now added their support for the library campaigners.
Mr Drax has penned a letter to Dorset County Councils cabinet member for community services Hilary Cox, asking her to consider the proposal that would see all libraries retained.
In an email to Ad Lib he said: “As you know, I too am concerned about this issue, believing that libraries are an integral part of our community and should be retained wherever possible.”
In a letter to Dorset County Council leader Angus Campbell, Mr Walter also voiced his support for the proposal that would see all 34 libraries retained.
Ad Lib spokesman Mike Chaney said members of his group were confident the vote on the future of libraries would be a free vote, so councillors would not be instructed to vote along party lines.
He said he hoped the opinions expressed by the prominent local politicians offered some food for thought for the members ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
Mr Chaney said: “It’s one more bit of ammunition for what we hope will be a straightforward fight this week.
“It’s a free vote so we hope the example of the MPs will persuade anybody who needs to be persuaded that saving the libraries is the best option, especially as it doesn’t cost any more money.”
The nine libraries that could lose funding as a result of Thursday’s vote are Burton Bradstock, Charmouth, Chickerell, Colehill, Corfe Castle, Portland Underhill, Puddletown, Stalbridge and Wool.
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