WINCHESTER High Street was crowded with one of the strangest protests seen in its long history.

About 100 people held a silent sitdown "read-in" around the Buttercross monument to protest at Hampshire County Council's plans for the library service.

Librarians have been taking industrial action over proposals to shelve 27 posts and downgrade some 17 others with pay cuts of up to £4,500 a year.

They argue that the cuts will worsen the service for its users and herald further decline.

Library staff and supporters staged a rally in the High Street yesterday before the silent read-in.

Steve Squibbs, a Unison shop steward and librarian in Hythe, said he was happy with the turnout: "I'm really pleased as it shows the level of support there is to maintain the library service.

"We hope to resolve the dispute through talking. But we are prepared to take further action."

Local authors who spoke in support were Jim Reardon, Michael Lupton and Michael Coleman.