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Her intervention is a major boost to The Daily Express’s Save Our Libraries Crusade, which is calling on councils to rethink.
Ms Dorries, 64, said £5million would be made available in February to enable library services to upgrade buildings and technology so they are better placed to respond to the changing ways people use them.
She said: “I want to thank libraries up and down the country for all they do – something the Daily Express has done a great job of highlighting through its campaign. They are a lifeline to millions of people – particularly during Covid.
“They are there for those who don’t have a computer at home, or can’t afford wifi, or to buy books for their kids. Or for those who are lonely and need friendly support, libraries connect them with their communities.
“If I have one mission as Culture Secretary, it’s to open doors for those who need it the most. Libraries are the front line for that effort and I’ll press councils hard to invest in libraries because of the enormous value they provide.” Research shows at least 800 libraries have been closed in a decade, despite the soaring salaries of fat cat council bosses.
In many cases councils say they have kept libraries open but, in fact, they have dumped them on to volunteers to run. There are now thought to be 500 volunteer libraries in England.
The accelerated rate of library closures comes as millions of households see their council tax bills rise at the same time town hall chiefs enjoy big pay rises.
Some 2,500 council employees are earning £100,000 or more.
Andrew Coburn, of pressure group SOLE – Save Our Libraries Essex – said: “It’s the end of National Libraries Week and the idea was to celebrate the central role libraries play in the community as a driver for inclusion, sustainability, social mobility and community cohesion. Which is absolutely fine if you can find a library that’s open.
“What began as reductions in numbers at larger libraries is now a wholesale hollowing out of the service.”
COMMENT BY NADINE DORRIES
This week is Libraries Week, which is a cause that is incredibly close to my heart.
I know from personal experience that a library card is one of the most powerful gifts you can give to a child.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from – that card is a ticket to anywhere in the world. It’s a chance to escape poverty, to broaden your horizons, to change your life, even.
When I was a young girl growing up in Liverpool, I loved my local library, partly because it was one of the only places I could enjoy central heating.
We’d just moved from Breck Road to an overspill council estate, and we only had the one fireplace at home.
The library was somewhere cosy and comforting, offering peace and a chance to escape.
I still vividly remember taking my little brother with me one day, he must have been about four at the time, and sitting down with him at a table and poring over a huge book about atoms. I’d never even heard of atoms.
But that’s the joy of a library – there’s a whole world of knowledge waiting to be explored.
I want to thank libraries up and down the country for all they do, something that the Express has done a great job of highlighting through its own campaign.
In February, my department will start transforming libraries across the country with a special £5million Libraries Improvement Fund.
I’ll also be pressing councils hard to invest in library facilities because of the enormous value these places provide.
- Nadine Dorries is the Culture Secretary
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