Unpaid tax from Amazon, Google and Starbucks should fund libraries, says Jeanette Winterson

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20 November 2012
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imports_WRI_0-jzw4wr5t-100000_78002.jpg Unpaid tax from Amazon, Google and Starbucks should fund libraries, says Jeanette Winterson
The campaigning author also called for libraries to be taken out of local council leisure budgets and put into the national education budget ...

The campaigning author also called for libraries to be taken out of local council leisure budgets and put into the national education budget

Jeanette Winterson was delivering the inaugural Reading Agency Lecture at the British Library. In her 2011 memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, she wrote movingly about the transformational effect of her local library when she was a teenager. 'I had no one to help me, but the library helped me,' she said in her lecture. 'That's why I'm here tonight.'

'Libraries cost about a billion a year to run right now. Make it two billion and charge Google, Amazon and Starbucks all that back tax on their profits here,' she said in her impassioned speech at the British Library.

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'If we want libraries to take their place – I think their proper place in modern society – we can't make them compete with sports centres for resources. Libraries are doing more education work than ever. Libraries and literacy cannot be separated, I don't see how this can be classed as "leisure" nor do I see how we have a choice between getting our bins emptied and putting cash into libraries.'

Pro-library Jeanette spoke out about the value of books and libraries to children, warning not to 'hand kids over to computer games and wall-to-wall TV – bring them to books early and see what happens. Give them real choice – let them find out what books are, what they can do. How to be Aladdin, Huck Finn, Lyra, Harry. Give them a library as good as anything Carnegie wanted, and see what happens. It is the best social experiment we could make.'