Tokyo’s 90-year-old Hibiya Library may close one year from now unless the capital’s financially troubled metropolitan government comes to the rescue.

In another symptom of the strain on Tokyo’s coffers, a metropolitan government plan to refurbish the library in 1999 and open a new one in 2003 has been put on the back burner, due to austerity measures.

The library has been popular with students and businesspeople alike, serving as a peaceful retreat in the otherwise unremarkable business district.

With the renovation project unlikely to begin soon, however, the library may close down as soon as December next year, sources familiar with the case say.

A group interested in saving the library has submitted a petition with more than 8,000 signatures to Tokyo Gov. Yukio Aoshima demanding that reconstruction proceed to save what many call Tokyo’s most popular public library.

Hibiya Library opened in 1908 in Hibiya Park near the district of Kasumigaseki. It survived the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 but was destroyed and burned during the U.S. air raids of World War II and rebuilt in 1957.

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