IT IS the biggest day in book lovers' calendars.

However, some of those celebrating World Book Day will find their local library's doors firmly shut.

Thirteen libraries across Hampshire, including five in Southampton, will remain closed - despite the worldwide annual celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading taking place today.

Southampton's Burgess Road, Cobbett Road, Woolston, Portswood and Thornhill libraries are closed, and in Hampshire, libraries in Bishop's Waltham, Netley and Lyndhurst are among those remaining shut.

City Independent councillor Don Thomas has branded the closures as a “sad state of affairs”.

Cllr Thomas said: "Seeing these libraries closed on World Book Day shows just what exactly has happened to the libraries across Southampton, and what will happen to them in the future.

“I think it is only a matter of time before the remaining libraries that are in council hands will be farmed out once again to anyone who thinks they can run them."

As previously reported by the Echo, council chiefs approved £1.7m cuts to Hampshire libraries last year, including the end of the mobile library service, to save hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Since then, some libraries have been run by community groups and volunteers.

Cllr Thomas believes that Hampshire and Southampton is experiencing a “demise” of local libraries, adding: “This really does bring home the fact that libraries need to be looked after and financially backed by local government.

“It is not right and proper that these good-meaning volunteers have pressures on them to keep the libraries open."

Responding, city council leisure boss Cllr Satvir Kaur said: “The transformation of our libraries in 2016 has ensured a long-term sustainable future for all of our library buildings, as a result of which Southampton’s communities are getting a better service.

“Examples include a new and improved library in Woolston, and a range of new activities in our community libraries, that as a council, we could not deliver.”

Miss Kaur said while it was “unfortunate” World Book Day falls on a day where some libraries are closed, there are several celebratory events happening at schools and other community hubs across the city.

She added: “Children and young people getting a good start in life is one of the council’s top priorities, and all Southampton libraries will continue to play an integral part in achieving this aim."

A spokesman for Hampshire County Council said the county libraries in question are normally closed on a Thursday.

They added World Book Day events have already been held at some libraries to allow children to take part in the celebration, and the authority is encouraging everyone to enjoy World Book Day wherever they are.