Iain Banks campaigns against ‘barbaric’ cuts to libraries

Iain Banks is spearheading a campaign to keep libraries open. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Iain Banks is spearheading a campaign to keep libraries open. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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BEST-SELLING author Iain Banks is launching a campaign to stop Scotland’s libraries from cutting their opening hours. Banks, who is spearheading the protest alongside fellow sci-fi authors Ken MacLeod and Charles Stross, has described the moves to slash opening times by up to 20 per cent as a barbaric act.

The author of The Wasp Factory and The Crow Road says he decided to back the campaign because the cuts were an attack on civilisation.

“I support the campaign,” Banks said. “Libraries are some of the most civilised places in our villages, towns and cities and to get rid of them or cut back on access to them is an act of barbarism.”

The libraries campaign will be launched next month in Edinburgh, where the council has cut staff and plans to restrict access to save money. Libraries in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dumfries and Galloway and Falkirk have all been affected by recent cuts to opening hours.

MacLeod, one of Scotland’s most popular sci-fi authors, who will address a public meeting at the McDonald Road Library on 5 March, said: “Like most writers I made huge use of the library when I was at school, in particular public libraries. They had an enormous impact on me and I discovered many things in a public library I would never have discovered any other way.

“It is a great disservice to the current generation of young people, who will miss out on being able to use libraries the way I and my generation did growing up.”

In Edinburgh, changes unveiled by council chiefs in November proposed no libraries would open their doors on Sundays, with hours on a Thursday evening axed, and the smallest libraries only open for five days a week as part of £550,000 of savings due to be found this year. The proposals would see Saturday opening hours extended, with all libraries opening at 10am and closing at either 5pm for larger facilities or 4pm for smaller venues. Public consultation on the changes is under way.

Pete Cannell, of Edinburgh East Against the Cuts, which is helping organise the campaign, said: “It is quite a significant change in timings and reduction in hours. When you combine that with low staffing numbers the whole ability of the service will be such that it is significantly compromised.”

Similar cuts to opening hours have been made in libraries elsewhere in Scotland. Gray Allan, a librarian in Falkirk and secretary of Falkirk Unison branch, said: “The opening hours of Falkirk Libraries have been reduced by nine hours per week since last September. Meanwhile, part-time staff hours have been cut and one professional librarian’s post has been deleted and replaced at a lower wage.”

Councillor Deidre Brock, Edinburgh’s culture and leisure leader, said: “All local authorities are having to make big savings, and we are no exception. But unlike some areas, we have not closed, and will not close, any of our libraries.”