Man Booker Prize nominee hits out library cutbacks

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ONE of the favourites to win this year’s Man Booker Prize has hit out at library cuts.

Crime novelist Graeme Macrae Burnet says Scotland’s libraries should be “protected” from from cutbacks and closure.

The Glasgow-based author described the nation’s libraries as an “incredibly valuable resource” and that they should be viewed as a “priority”.

Shortlisted for the most prestigious prize in British writing, the 48-year-old has credited the valuable resources at local libraries for helping him research his latest novel.

Originally from Ayrshire, Mr Burnet has also said that they should never be seen as an “added extra” when public services are targeted for cutbacks.

Speaking ahead of the Man Booker prize ceremony in London, Mr Burnet said: “All public services are under threat at the moment and councils obviously have to prioritise where they spend their money.

“But, as a writer and a reader, and somebody who cares about other people reading, I think libraries should be a priority, not some added extra, and should be protected.

“If you lose them do you get them back? They’re an incredibly valuable resource.”

Mr Burnet recently revealed that he would rather write in his local library than at his home in Glasgow in order to avoid any distractions.

He said: “It’s almost a rite of passage when you start going without your mum and dad, and you start to find your own books. I wasn’t brought up in a particularly literary household, so I’ve always genuinely discovered books.”

“Libraries play a very big part in my writing process. I find them a very useful place to feel that you are going to work rather than pottering about the house with all the distractions there. It’s just like going to the office for me. I like to have that separation.

“They’re amazing resources for research. They’re obviously places to borrow books and they have a lot of author events these days. You are also able to access the internet for free, which is a really valuable thing, as lots of people don’t have access to it or can’t afford to pay for it.

“They’re a real community hub.”

His award nominated book – His Bloody Project – focuses on a triple murder case in a rural crofting community in the North West Highlands.

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary award given out every year to best original novel published in the UK.

Previous winners of the highly sought after prize have included Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hilary Mantel, Yann Martel and Margaret Atwood.

Last year a number of well-known authors hit out at the state of UK libraries after a report revealed that more than 100 had closed between 2014/2015 – a total reduction of 10% since 2010.

Val McDermid and Ian Rankin attacked the decision to close so many libraries in Scotland, calling the situation “disgraceful”.

Best-selling crime novelist, McDermid, said: “What does this do to our culture?

“We complain all the time about young people not reading books, but if we make it harder for them to get books, reading is not going to increase. Libraries are there for people who can’t afford books, or whose families don’t see any value in reading books.”

Growing up in Fife, McDermind said her family had no money to spend on books and libraries were her “route to understanding the world.”

She said: “Frankly, I would not be a writer if it were not not for the public library system

“In Fife we have a library built with Andrew Carnegie’s money – those industrialists understood the value of educating people. These are the things we are losing. These are the things we are throwing away.”

SCOTS crime writer Ian Rankin
SCOTS crime writer Ian Rankin

Creator of detective John Rebus, Ian Rankin said libraries had been his “refuge and a place of constant wonder” when he was growing up.

He said: “I’d take out the maximum number of books allowed each week and remember the thrill of being told I’d reached the age where I could have an adult ticket and take books from the adult fiction section (aged around 12).”

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