Scotland's Man Booker contender speaks out over library cuts

Graeme Macrae Burnet is in the running for the Man Booker Prize with his second novel.Graeme Macrae Burnet is in the running for the Man Booker Prize with his second novel.
Graeme Macrae Burnet is in the running for the Man Booker Prize with his second novel.
Scotland's contender for the Man Booker Prize has called for the nation's libraries to be protected from closure and cutbacks.

Graeme Macrae Burnet described them as an “incredibly valuable resource” which should never be seen as an “added extra” when public services are targeted for savings.

The Ayrshire writer, shortlisted for Britain’s most prestigious literary prize with only his second novel, said he owed his interest in books to his local library in Kilmarnock.

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He revealed that he chooses to work in Glasgow’s libraries rather than from home to try to avoid any distractions and said they were providing an increasingly vital role for local communities.

Speaking ahead of today’s prize ceremony in London, he said the facilities in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow had proved invaluable when he was researching his shortlisted book, His Bloody Project.

The book focuses on a triple murder in a remote Wester Ross crofting community and the attempts of experts to work out the motivation of the young man who has confessed to the crimes. It is said to be the favourite to win the Man Booker Prize, which has been won by the likes of Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Yann Martel, Hilary Mantel and Kingsley Amis in previous years.

Burnet has spoken out months after Julia Donaldson, creator of children’s characters like The Gruffalo and Stick Man, wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to protest about the impact of cuts in library services.

The 48-year-old Burnet said: “I’ve got great memories of going to the children’s roon in my local library, the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, and at a certain point graduating to the adult section.

“It’s almost a rite of passage, when you start going without your mum and dad, and you start to find your own books. I wasn’t brought up in a particularly literary household, so I’ve always genuinely discovered books.

“All public services are under threat at the moment and councils obviously have to prioritise where they spend their money. But, as a writer and a reader, and somebody who cares about other people reading, I think libraries should be a priority, not some added extra, and should be protected. If you lose them do you get them back? They’re an incredibly valuable resource.”

Burnet, who is now based in Glasgow, spent several years trying to get his work published before being snapped up by the tiny Scottish crime imprint Contraband. He has previously worked as an English teacher around Europe before returning to Scotland to work with independent television companies.

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Burnet, who is appearing at Duntocher Library in Clydebank as part of the annual Book Week Scotland initiative, added: “Libraries play a very big part in my writing process. I find them a very useful place to feel that you are going to work rather than pottering about the house with all the distractions there. It’s just like going to the office for me. I like to have that separation.

“They’re amazing resources for research. They’re obviously places to borrow books and they have a lot of author events on these days. You are also able to access the internet for free, which is a really valuable things, as lots of people don’t have access to it or can’t afford to pay for it. They’re a real community hub.”

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