Hatherleigh and North Tawton residents could be set to suffer with the loss of the mobile library, following Devon County Council’s decision to cut the service.

Following this year’s announcement that the council was considering closure of the mobile library service, which covers Hatherleigh and North Tawton, a group of Devonians — including celebrated children’s author Michael Morpurgo — are battling to save the service, which they argue is vital to those living in rural communities.

Torridge District councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin has set up an online petition to persuade the county council to reconsider its decision. Petition organisers wrote online: “The mobile libraries are a lifeline to many people in our rural communities. Many people living in Devon are not within walking distance and have non-existent or very limited public transport links to a library. The mobile service allows many people in isolated areas the ability and independence to use the library service on their own, and meet with others.

“Older people and those with mobility problems rely on these services and they are also the people who are least likely to have access to the internet.The council claim they are trying to support the most vulnerable in our society and reduce isolation and yet in cutting this service they are destroying any good work they are seeking to achieve.”

Devon County Council has said that its data shows that mobile library usage has fallen from 2012 to 2022, but Cllr Cottle-Hunkin argued that these statistics fail to take into account the Covid pandemic and the reduction in the number of mobile library vans over the past decade, both of which would have resulted in decreased usage. Ten years ago, the council ran eight mobile library vehicles; today, there are only four.

Cllr Cottle-Hunkin added: “Data shows the use of libraries over the last five years has increased, so I feel that the statistics the county council are quoting are flawed.

“The loss of fuel is more expensive so people aren’t going into town and borrowing book is the ultimate way of recycling and also a way of sharing.”

As part of the campaign, children’s author Nick Butterworth, the writer of the Percy the Park-keeper books, and illustrator Sarah McIntyre are helping to organise a competition for children as a way of allowing children to give their opinion on the potential closure of the mobile libraries.

Cllr Cottle-Hunkin explained: “‘Devon’s children were not included in the county council’s consultation about the mobile library services, so this competition is a wonderful way for them to have their voices heard. We are asking them to send a poem, a story or a piece of artwork on one of two themes: “Imagine the most fabulous mobile library EVER” or “What I like best about the mobile library.”

Stephen Fry, Michael Rosen, Veronica Henry, Dermot O’Leary, Patrick Gale, Tanya Landman, Claire Barker, and Liz Shakespeare are a few of many other famous faces lending their support to the campaign.

To sign the petition, visit: www.change.org/p/save-our-mobile-library-service or collect a paper version from local shops.