Speaking at the inaugural Reading Agency Lecture at the British Library, award-winning author Jeanette Winterson suggested the cost could be met by Google, Amazon and Starbucks.
The three companies were recently grilled about tax avoidance before a committee of MPs. The firms have paid little UK corporation tax although they argue that they operate within tax rules.
Winterson said, “Either we stop arguing and agree that libraries are doing their best to reinvent themselves, and that with a bit of help, financial and ideological — they belong to the future, or we let them run down until they disappear.”
“Libraries cost about 1 billion pounds (US$1.6 billion) to run right now. Make it 2 billion pounds and charge Google, Amazon and Starbucks all that back tax on their profits here.”
Winterson also offered the companies in question another option — “do an Andrew Carnegie and build us new kinds of libraries.”
About 600 libraries across England have reportedly closed as local councils face cuts in income. However a recent report by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee denied that figure, quoting Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as saying the estimate was “very wide of the mark” and that a “truer picture would be about a tenth of that.”
Other libraries affected by the cuts have reduced opening hours, cut staff or transferred the running of libraries to volunteers.