Renowned author and Oxford alumnus Philip Pullman addressed hundreds yesterday over the planned closure of almost half of Oxfordshire’s libraries.
Speaking in Oxford’s Town Hall alongside MP Andrew Smith, the ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy author turned his scepticism of worship towards a more secular target: the market.
Pullman had already publicly condemned the closures saying, “We measure the value of a civilized society by the number of libraries it opens, not the number it closes down.
“To deprive citizens of access to this most precious thing, a library, is to surrender to a savage and stupid fundamentalism, the worship of the market. We do not need to do this. We should resist it passionately.”
Pullman told Cherwell, “This [issue] is very close to my heart, as I love libraries, and as a citizen of Oxford.”
He also commented that he supported student action regarding tuition fees, stating, “[The government] are pricing people out and making it very difficult for people from poor backgrounds. I am immensely sympathetic. Unless your parents own a chalet in the south of France, it will be difficult for most people to pay that much.
“Oxford and Cambridge won’t find it difficult to recruit students and I fear that even more will come from private schools, that will be inevitable,” he added.
Government cuts would see 20 of Oxford’s 43 libraries shut down. Organisers hope that authors support will lend extra fervour to the campaign’s efforts, and change politicians’ minds.
The Oxford Education Campaign, a mainly student organisation responsible for last term’s protests which ended in the occupation of the Radcliffe Camera, are seeking to establish a long term relationship with the libraries, both for symbolism and solidarity.
When asked whether he would help campaign on student issues Pullman commented, “I am immensely busy and I can’t give time to everything. But my heart is with you on this.”
Next Wednesday has been designated as a day of national anti-cuts action, and the group are planning a “fluid” protest that will end in the occupation of a public building such as one of the closing libraries. Other locations such as the Sheldonian Theatre were discussed.
Julie Simmons, an ex-library worker and the current secretary for the Oxfordshire Anti-Cuts Coalition, noted the social impact that the closures would have. She commented, “many young people simply can’t afford to buy what they like or need to read.”
At OEC’s Monday meeting the effects of the cuts for young people who don’t yet and may not enjoy the privilege of attending a place like Oxford were also raised.
Efforts to save libraries include Stony Stratford, where residents collectively removed almost all of the library’s 16,000 books by each withdrawing their maximum allowance.