Julian Barnes: Dismantling Libraries is Self-Mutilation...

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Barnes: dismantling libraries is "self-mutilation"

Author Julian Barnes, shortlisted for this year's Man Booker prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending, has said it is "national self-mutilation" to damage the public library service.

Barnes said: "Like most writers of my generation, I grew up with the weekly exchange of library books, and took their pleasures and treasures for granted. The cost of our free public library system is small, its value immense. To diminish and dismantle it would be a kind of national self-mutilation, as stupid as it would be wicked."

The author's comments came as the Man Booker prize announced it would be hosting an event to show its support for the library service.

Three of the authors shortlisted for this year's award - Carol Birch, Stephen Kelman and A D Miller - will speak to an audience of librarians and library reading groups from across the UK at an event to be held at the British Library on 11th October.

Ion Trewin, the prize's literary director, said: "The support we are giving here at a time when libraries across much of the nation are being closed or under threat demonstrates how important Man Booker believes them to be. In addition to attending this event, we hope reading groups across the country will use the Man Booker Prize website to find out more about the shortlisted titles in the running for the 2011 prize."

The prize has worked with libraries across Britain for many years, providing materials for librarians to enthuse library reading groups. Over 35% of the UK’s 4,612 libraries promote the prize. The prize also sponsors six library reading groups to shadow the judges and contribute to the debates around the longlist and shortlist on the Man Booker Prize website.

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