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Julie Hesmondhalgh letter pays tribute to our under-threat libraries

A new campaign group is battling to save 101-year-old Oswaldtwistle Library

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Accrington star Julie Hesmondhalgh

One of Accrington’s best loved celebrities has boosted the campaign to save Hyndburn’s under-threat libraries , with a letter recalling her fond memories spent in them.

Julie Hesmondhalgh argues that the range of benefits these public buildings bring is ‘better than gold’.

It comes as a campaign has been launched to save Oswaldtwistle library, which is under threat of closure along with Rishton and Clayton-le-Moors libraries.

The Save Oswaldtwistle’s Unique Library (SOUL) group has received hundreds of petition signatures.

Chris Brindle, of SOUL, said they have put in an ‘expression of interest’ to Lancashire County Council (LCC) and are now working on a business plan to take over the running of the 101-year-old library.

Speaking at a recent area forum meeting, he said: “We are starting to put together now a plan of action as to how we can run it as a community library.

“The time frame for this project is very limited. By the middle of August we have to submit an information pack as to how we are going to move it forward. The council really want it out of the way and done and dusted.

“We are looking at funding options now. We desperately need money as this won’t be cheap.

“The last thing we want to do is see the library shut down. It would be a disaster if we were driving up Union Road and the boards were up as it would either be sold off or worse still left to rot.”

Mr Brindle told the meeting how 970 children from local schools used the library last year and they want to keep the facility open ‘for future generations’.

Letters of support have been received from local schools and advice is being provided by the Book Cycle charity.

Save Oswaldtwistle's Unique Library (SOUL) campaign group. L-R: Annabel Robb, Chris Brindle, Sonia Marshall, Wendy Sanderson, Councillor Peter Britcliffe

Mr Brindle added: “We have a letter of support from Julie Hesmondhalgh. She is fully behind what we are doing. She put together a lovely tribute. That’s another string to our bow.

“We feel it’s a key resource and are absolutely determined not to lose it in the town.

“We want to see it as an educational hub. If we don’t take steps now to save the facility then it’s gone.

“It seems a very rushed process and we are pedalling as fast as we can.”

Libraries in Oswaldtwistle, Clayton-le-Moors and Rishton, as well as five children and young people’s centres, are among community buildings facing the axe within 12 months as part of LCC cuts. A 12-week consultation is being run until the end of August.

Actress Julie says libraries are 'better than gold'

In the letter of support, actress Julie Hesmondhalgh remembers a youth spent in Clayton Library, as well as Accrington Library and the former Church Library.

She wrote: ‘The majesty of Accrington Library has been well documented. The multi award winning Accrington-raised writer Jeanette Winterson talks about it as having saved her life as she struggled to escape her oppressively religious upbringing. It opened up worlds to her that she couldn’t have imagined, and those books paved the way for her to go to Oxford.

‘I still occasionally dream about the reference library upstairs, past the stained glass window on the sweeping stairwell (“For a jolly goode booke/Whereon to looke/is better to me than golde”), I can almost smell that room.

‘Saturday mornings my dad would take me to have a browse while he looked up the races in the newspaper area and before we went to the baths next door.

‘But equally important to me was our far less grand but well-stocked Church Library which my mum and I would visit weekly.

‘It’s from here that I borrowed Little Women (and all the subsequent Alcott books), Daddy Long Legs, A Pilgrim’s Progress and later, the Judy Blume teen masterpieces.

‘Church Library went a long time ago, but Clayton-le-Moors Library survived and provided as progress marched on, not just books to borrow, but computers to use.

‘Young people whose home lives aren’t perhaps as conducive to quiet concentration as we’d hope for ourselves.

‘That community hub is what’s being taken away when we close these smaller, less majestic, locally based libraries.

‘Our councils are being put in a terrible position of choosing which services to lose and which to keep in these swathing austerity cuts to local authorities.

‘It’s an impossible task. But I do believe that if you take away the local libraries, it is another step towards cutting off the less well off in our society... from information and access, support and technology, and a quiet space for learning.

‘And that surely is better than gold.’