Library support goes global

Campaigners in Wigtown Library this week objecting to council plans to cut its opening hours. Pic: Stephen Jolly
Campaigners in Wigtown Library this week objecting to council plans to cut its opening hours. Pic: Stephen Jolly

A campaign to save Wigtown library’s opening hours from being slashed as part of council cuts has received international support this week.

With news of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s plans to reduce library opening hours in Scotland’s Book Town from 40 a week to just 17.5 hitting the headlines, it wasn’t long before word spread as far as Norway and was picked up by Jan Klovstad, president of the Inernational 
Organisation of Book Towns.

Jan joined locals to voice his opposition and said that book towns the world over take inspiration from Wigtown.

He wrote to campaigners to tell them he has had the pleasure to follow Wigtown Book Town and Festival for several years and has met “happy reading children in the library”.

He added that the campaigners have his full support.

Wigtown Book Festival 
director Adrian Turpin said: “It’s deeply ironic that William Ewart, one the sponsors for the original bill that created the public library system, was MP for Dumfries. He must be spinning in his grave.

“This is not a story about a monolith, philistine local authority – it’s about a lack of joined-up thinking. The council has been, over more than a decade, visionary in the support it has shown for the Book Town.

“These proposed cuts under­mine that support and send terrible messages about the value placed on the Book Town.

“It is going to look very shabby to people outside the region, including the thousands of visitors who come to Wigtown each year because they see it as a place that values culture. The argument that Wigtown should only get 17.5 hours library opening time because of its size just doesn’t work. If you live in Dumfries, you have a gallery, a theatre, a large library, a film house and other year-round cultural attractions on your doorstep. In Wigtown, the library is the only year-round cultural resource and you mess with it at your peril.”

A petition has been set up locally and online with almost 500 signatures in support of retaining the current opening hours.

Council leader Ronnie 
Nicholson said the local authority had to make significant savings, but said there would be some flexibility in opening hours. A decision will be made on February 6.