DOZENS of authors have joined forces to air their fury at Hampshire County Council’s “shameful decision” to cut £1.76 million from its library service.

More than 80 Hampshire writers have signed an open letter to the authority contesting its proposal to axe 14 libraries, meaning dozens of jobs could be lost, and reduce the opening hours of the remaining facilities by 15 per cent.

In a public consultation launched yesterday (Thursday) county bosses said there is still a possibility for all Hampshire libraries to remain open but that would mean that there would be a 25 per cent reductions in their opening hours.

Those who have drawn criticism of the plan include the likes of Neil Gaiman, Philip Hoare, Claire Fuller, Sam Baker, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Pauline Rowson and Lucy Jones.

Within the letter, the authors write: “We are authors who live, work or were brought up in Hampshire. Libraries are where we learned about books, and where we learned to love them – they are where everyone who reads learns to love books. They are the magical open door at the back of the wardrobe, a door that is open to every child, from every background – and every adult too.

“Now that one in eight schools do not have a library at all, public libraries are all the more vital. And libraries are about far more than books and literacy. They are havens, refuges and gateways, the vibrant hearts of the towns and villages they serve. A library is a place where a community comes together, from toddlers enjoying rhyme time to older visitors finding a place to browse and meet friends – and of course people simply wanting to borrow a good book, for free.

“An open library is proof that we value community and culture. A closed library is a sign of a society – and a county council – that is turning its back on both.

“We urge Hampshire County Council to reverse this shameful decision.”

Documents released as part of the ten-week public consultation listed the libraries at risk of closure, including Blackfield and Lyndhurst in the New Forest, Fair Oak Library in Fair Oak, Chineham and South Ham libraries in Basingstoke, Elson library in Gosport, Emsworth library in Havant, Horndean in East Hampshire, Lee-on-the-Solent library in Gosport and Odiham library in Hart.

Additionally, Kingsclere Community Library, Lowford Community Library, Milford-on-Sea Community Library and North Baddesley Community Library may be turned into independent community-managed libraries which means they will no longer be supported by the county council and will have to be run entirely by volunteers.

Cllr Sean Woodward, executive member for recreation and heritage at the county council said the authority is "absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service".

The consultation will close on March 18 and the authority stressed that no decision will be made until all consultation responses have been fully analysed.

The list of authors:

Pete Adams,
Nazneen Ahmed,
Geoff Allnutt,
Kirsty Applebaum,
William Atkins,
Julie Ballard,
Sam Baker,
Julie Ballard,
Joanna Barnard,
Quentin Bates,
Kathryn Bevis,
Susmita Bhattacharya,
Alys Blakeway,
Jonathan Buckley,
Carole Burns,
Emma Clery,
Lucy Coats,
Amanda Craig,
Ben Culleton,
Alison Cybe,
James Desborough,
Amber Dodd,
Mark Eyles,
Lucy Flannery,
Jo Foster,
Tiffany Francis-Baker,
Claire Fuller,
Neil Gaiman,
Jules Garvey-Welch,
Roger Goldsmith,
Claire Gradidge,
Caroline Green,
Neil Gregor,
Jon Courtenay Grimwood,
Alison Habens,
James Hall,
Jude Hayland,
Vanessa Harbour,
John Harding,
Jude Hayland,
Abbie Headon,
Judith Heneghan,
Jane Hill,
Philip Hoare,
Cate Holness,
Jon Hotten,
Alice Hunt,
Lucy Jones,
Marina De Joslin,
Reem Khan,
Judith Kinghorn,
Christine Lord,
Helen Matthews,
James McConnachie,
Ray Monk,
Louise Morrish,
Richard Newton,
David Nicholls,
Simon Nicholson,
Beth O’Leary,
Russell Olson,
David Owen,
Prof David Owen,
Caroline Owen-Wintersgill,
Chris Packham,
Conor Patrick,
Keith A. Pearson,
Mark A. Pritchard,
Isabel Rogers,
Pauline Rowson,
Michael Shipster,
Jackie Shipster,
Rebecca Smith,
P.D. Smith,
Ali Sparkes,
William Sutton,
Julie Sykes,
Tom Sykes.
M. E. Vaughan,
Judy Waite,
Damon Wakes