Philip Pullman: Libraries are not just about books

The libraries are in slow decline, and it is all being presided over by Ed Vaizey. I went with [author] Kate Mosse over a year ago to meet Vaizey and lobby him on the subject.

He seemed to be listening; his eyes were moving and his responses indicated life. Yet he hasn't taken any notice. Just look at the Kensal Rise library in Brent, north-west London, which was opened by Mark Twain. Any country in the world with pretensions to culture would at least keep that one open. It just doesn't seem to matter to this government. They make the right noises about tackling illiteracy, but when it comes to libraries they look the other way.

Libraries are different from schools, because you don't have to go. Children can go there to read and it's just for pure pleasure. This has all been a gradually declining mess. The library is not just about books. It is a place where people can go. Having that sort of space is very, very important in many parts of Britain, they provide social functions. These services are being torn from people who need it most.