A CAMPAIGN to save under-threat libraries in Hampshire has been launched.

Dozens of Hampshire authors including Chris Packham, David Nicholls and Rebecca Smith have backed a campaign urging county bosses not to close libraries.

It comes as last week Hampshire County Council launched a ten-week public consultation over the future of libraries in a bid to save  £1.76m  by 2021.

As previously reported, the authority is proposing two options with one being the closure of ten of the 48 council-run libraries as well as a 15% reduction in the opening hours of the remaining ones or no closures but a 25% reduction in opening hours for all 48 libraries.

This morning members of Hampshire Authors for Libraries  flocked to Winchester to present an open letter to county councillor Sean Woodward, the executive member for recreation and heritage at the county council. 

They are asking the authority for a “complete reversal” of the £1.76m cut.

In a statement they said: “Hampshire County Council’s decision  is backward and shameful – and must be reversed. If local culture is to flourish and local communities are to thrive then libraries are vital.  To close a library is to say we do not value culture, we do not value community, we do not want to give children a chance. We will put pressure on Hampshire County Council until they think again. ”

As previously reported, the libraries at risk of closure are the ones in 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 could be turned into independent community-managed libraries, meaning they will no longer be supported by the county council and will have to be run entirely by volunteers.

The county council said it remains “absolutely committed to providing a high-quality library service”.

But Winchester author James McConnachie, one of the 81 authors to have signed the petition, hit back saying: “That is not a way to plan for the future. To cut a library is to cut away the legs of a community. A closed library is a sign of a society and county council that has turned its back on culture in the community.  The figure of £1.76m is a question of choices for Hampshire County Council on what they want to spend the money on. What it is doing shows it is not committed to libraries. Libraries are at the heart of communities, if you cut them you cut away possibilities for children.”

The authority said residents have also the opportunity to suggest new options.

Cllr Woodward said 38 libraries is what is needed to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service in Hampshire.

He previously blamed cuts from central government and a change in people’s habits.

A final decision on the proposal is expected to be made in summer 2020 followed by a further consultation on opening hours. Changes would be implemented in autumn 2020.