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This time last year Hampshire Library Cuts Protest March

Protest against cuts to Hampshire LibrariesWas it really a year ago on 13 January 2020, that I, and some of my fellow authors, marched on the county hall in Winchester to protest against proposed library cuts!  So much happened in 2020 soon after this event with the Covid-19 pandemic and the libraries were closed for another reason and nothing to do with financial budgets. With the easing of lock down over the summer of 2020 the libraries gradually re-opened only to be closed again for browsing with the autumn and winter restrictions.

I was one of over forty authors who lent my support to the campaign to stop Hampshire County Council from closing several libraries and cutting the hours of many others in the county.  On Monday 13 January 2020 on the steps of the council offices in Winchester we handed over an open letter of protest to Councillor Woodward, who was then executive member for recreation and heritage at Hampshire County Council.

The local authority had announced that it was consulting on shutting some library facilities in a bid to save £1.76m from its libraries budget. Remaining libraries could also see their opening hours slashed under the scheme and four community-run venues could shut if they don’t find a new funding model.

Pauline Rowson being interviewed by ITV MeridianI was interviewed for BBC and ITV. Libraries change lives, they are the heartbeat of our communities and have already suffered appallingly nationally from cuts, with many closing and the loss of valuable librarian positions.  Many of those that have already been turned into volunteer run libraries are closing, they do not have the expertise or resources to succeed.

Over the last ten years central government has consistently failed in its legal duty to adequately fund libraries, causing many to struggle and providing an excuse to local councils to say they are not working. Once a library in a community is closed it is gone forever. 

Pauline Rowson joins fellow authors to protest at proposed library closuresLibraries do not discriminate, they are freely available to all and unite all generations.  They make a huge difference to lives and I am an example of that.  I come from a household where there weren't any books and my parents didn't read.  If it hadn't been for the opening of a small local library in my home town of Portsmouth, giving me access to free books, I would never have discovered the joy of reading and gone on to have a successful business career and ultimately become a crime author.

Unfortunately the pandemic crisis overwhelmed events, and sadly the council's decision was to closelibraries and cut hours. Only Emsworth Library was saved from closure. However, at the time of writing this entry (2021), and with all the upheaval of the pandemic, I'm not sure what the future brings for libraries. They saw a massive surge in borrowing in ebooks during the lock down, which is great but there is still the need both for the physical building and to supply physical books and reading matter, not to mention all the other functions a library provides - community groups, social interchange, access to learning and free use of computers and a quiet space to go to meditate, relax, and browse. I fervently feel they are an essential and vital part of our communities.

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