WAVING placards and accompanied by a brass band, library users and supporters took to the streets to protest against cuts to the service.

Authors and poets also roused the crowds on the children’s march for libraries, which saw campaigners demonstrate through Finchley on Saturday, September 12.

Barnet council plans to make £2.85m worth of cuts to the borough’s libraries, which could see them shrunk, axed or staffed by volunteers.

The proposals were first laid out last autumn, and have since gathered significant opposition from library users across the borough.

Saturday’s march saw protesters gather at East Finchley Library, where The Thick of It star Rebecca Front, performance poet Joshua Seigal and ten-year-old pupil Ralph Vincent addressed the crowd.

Rebecca Front kicked off to rapturous applause when she told the crowd libraries are “essential for civilisation.”

Ralph Vincent, a pupil at All Saints CE Primary School in Whetstone, said: “Politicians are always saying how we should help ourselves. Now they want to close down the main tool we use to do just that.”

Led by children from across Barnet, the campaigners then headed to Finchley Church End Library, where they were joined by the 35-strong London Metropolitan Brass Band and heard speeches from authors Alan Gibbons and Dan Freedman.

Mr Freedman said: “My first experience of reading books was going to East Finchley Library as a child. The precious opportunity to pick up any book that I liked has impacted my entire life and set me on my way to become an author.

“The hundreds of people gathered on this march thankfully shows us that the majority of us do not want to be part of a society where a person is denied the chance to read a book because of lack of means.”

Speaking after the march, Mr Gibbons said: “I was delighted to see hundreds of people, led by children, weaving their way through Barnet to appeal to the council to keep every library open and properly staffed. It was a carnival atmosphere.

“This is important: libraries work. A reading child is a successful child.”

The council carried out a consultation into the library proposals from November 2014 to February 2015, which saw more than 3,800 people submit their opinions.

Results, released in July, revealed that 97 per cent said they opposed closing six libraries in the borough, and 92 per cent opposed closing even two of them.

The authority faces an overall budget gap of £98.4m by 2020, with the library cuts part of the £17.9m cuts the children, education, libraries and safeguarding committee (CELS) is set to make. 

Councillor Reuben Thompstone, chairman of the CELS committee, previously said: “Listening to what our residents are saying, we are exploring ways to keep the same number of libraries across the borough, whilst reducing the overall cost of the service.

“To do this the library service will need to change and adapt, meaning it could end up looking significantly different from how it is today.”

A special meeting of the CELS committee will take place on Monday, October 12 at Hendon Town Hall to discuss the future of the library service.