The library in Stony Stratford near Milton Keynes, England, urged its patrons to check out every book on the shelves as a way of proving to the local council that its collection and facilities provide a vital service to the community. Stony Stratford is one of many towns across the UK that are facing severe library closures as the Tory-LibDem coalition government recklessly slashes its transfer payments to local governments (while breaking their promise to rein in enormous bonuses at the banks, even the ones that are owned by the taxpayer).
The empty shelves, as the library users want to demonstrate, represent the gaping void in their community if Milton Keynes council gets its way. Stony Stratford, an ancient Buckinghamshire market town famous only for its claim that the two pubs, the Cock and the Bull, are the origin of the phrase "a cock and bull story", was one of the communities incorporated in the new town in 1967. The Liberal Democrat council, made a unitary authority in 1997, now faces budget cuts of £25m and is consulting on closing at least two of 10 outlying branch libraries.
Stony Stratford council got wind in December and wrote to all 6,000 residents - not entirely disinterestedly, as the council meets in the library, like many other groups in the town. "In theory the closure is only out for consultation," Gifford said, "but if we sit back it will be too late. One man stopped me in the street and said, 'The library is the one place where you find five-year-olds and 90-year-olds together, and it's where young people learn to be proper citizens'. It's crazy even to consider closing it - they should be finding ways to expand its services and bring even more people in."
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