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Future Of UK Libraries 'Drastic' Says Unison Secretary Dave Prentis

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The future of libraries in the UK is in jeopardy because of "drastic" cuts and the "looming threat" of privatisation, a leading union warned today.

Unison accused the Government of "sleepwalking into a library crisis" which will deprive future generations of the book-lending and other services provided.

The union said that in the year to April, 100 libraries in England closed or were being run by volunteers or as a social enterprise.

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Local authority library budgets in England have been cut by £122 million in the past two years, according to research by Unison.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "Cuts, closures and now the threat of privatisation are seriously threatening the future of our libraries. The Government's failure to act, and the massive cuts it is inflicting on councils, are a recipe for disaster.

"Libraries have a long history of enriching people's lives. Since Victorian times they have been at the heart of vibrant communities. Now they are a vital resource for hard-pressed parents who struggle to afford books, for the elderly and for people looking for a job.

"There is a real chance that the library service we hand over to the next generation will be a shadow of its former self."

A Culture Department spokesman said: "We don't recognise this characterisation at all. The library service continues to thrive with almost 40% of all adults and three-quarters of children visiting libraries regularly.

"The latest figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy showed a net reduction of 35 static and mobile libraries in England in 2010-11.

"We will not hesitate to intervene where a council breaches it statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service."