THE campaign to save threatened Southampton libraries is gathering pace .

More than 1,000 people visited libraries across the city at the weekend, delighting the campaigners who say it shows strong public support for keeping them.

Five are in jeopardy as the city council seeks to save money, including three smaller ones in Millbrook, Thornhill and Weston.

At the threatened Cobbett Road library 540 people visited in just three hours, far more than usual, including scores of children who met best-selling children’s author Ali Sparkes.

Rachel Hickman, secretary of the Friends of Cobbett Road Library, said: “We are really pleased. We were not expecting anything like this.

“It shows how strongly people feel about the library and the threat we are under. Most people realise it is crunch time and things are not looking great.”

A public consultation is due to run until March 5 but Mrs Hickman said the city council budget meeting this Wednesday may pre-empt that by cutting funding for the five libraries after this year.

Mrs Hickman added: “The council just don’t seem to be willing to work with us to find other ways of keeping the library open, other than us running it. We think there are different ways and we are looking at alternatives, such as having other services use the building.”

She said alternative libraries in Bitterne and Portswood were less accessible to the public and did not have Cobbett Road’s facilities including a large meeting room used by 20 groups a week, including tai chi, art groups and coffee mornings.

At Burgess Road, which also faces closure, an estimated 500 people came through the doors throughout Saturday.

Campaigner Sarah Dockree, of Burgess Road Library Buddies, said: “It was really brilliant and shows the enormous support for what libraries do, not just books and borrowing but the diverse ranges of services in the community.”

Among the supporters on Saturday was Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North.

TV naturalist Chris Packham is also throwing his support behind the campaign and is giving a talk at Cobbett Road library on February 19, which is already sold out.