ACCLAIMED author Anne Fine visited Darlington to make a passionate exhortation to its people to fight for their libraries.

The Madame Doubtfire writer was in town on Thursday (March 17) to sign The Northern Echo’s petition to Save Crown Street Library.

In a recently announced round of drastic budget cuts, Darlington Borough Council announced the proposed closure of the town’s Cockerton and mobile libraries.

The authority also plans to close the Victorian Crown Street library and move its resources into the Dolphin Centre – a proposal that could cost £1.1m.

Councillors have defended the proposal by saying savings made from library cuts will help them to protect services for vulnerable people across the town.

Ms Fine accused the authority of ‘shroud-waving’ and said the cuts must be found elsewhere and the libraries left alone.

She said: “It’s very easy for them to wave shrouds but they are appointed to do a proper job and a proper job does not involve closing the main library in the town.

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Cut this voucher out and return to  The Northern Echo if you support the campaign

“Culture is not a train you can get on and off again, once these materials are dispersed, they are lost and they are too important to lose.

“They must think of some other way to save money.”

She urged people to back the Echo’s campaign, saying: “The library is an extraordinary social provision.

“Libraries are the building blocks for any professional career, a future for people prepared to make an effort in life and most important for social advantage.

“Nobody can afford not to have a library, we need the opportunities they offer.

“There is something special about reading and books that mean libraries cannot just be closed and moved into a leisure centre.

“Health and sports are important but there’s something about reading that lifts it above all of those things and that has to be borne in mind.”

She added: “I’d like to make an exhortation to the people of Darlington.

“If you do not fight this cut, you will lose this library.

“Whoever has used it, sheltered in it, cried in it or read a book in it; whoever has taken a small child there or seen an old person rest there should buy a copy of The Northern Echo and sign that coupon.

“Hopefully this will mean those councillors will not be able to move for coupons.”

Public meetings to discuss cuts to library services will be held on Wednesday, March 23 at 2.30pm in the Dolphin Centre’s Central Hall and at 6pm at Cockerton Methodist Church.

To protest against the proposals, fill in the coupon in today's paper and send it to The Northern Echo.