Mixed Week for Libraries

It’s been a week of both good and bad news for libraries this week; there were scenes of celebration in Barnet following a successful community campaign to save a Barnet Friern Library, whilst Liverpool City Council have announced that up to 10 of the city’s libraries will close as a result of cuts.

Liverpool City Council’s budget announcement for 2013-14 included a review of libraries and the introduction of a ‘hub and spoke’ model from 2014/15 in attempts to save £1million per year. The newly refurbished Central Library is due to open in May 2013 and the council have committed to a PFI deal of almost £2million per year for to run it. There are currently 19 local libraries in the city but there will now be a consultation over plans to reduce this to a smaller network of buildings, keeping a seven-day service at the Central Library and a community library in both north and south, alongside 6 with shorter opening hours. Other options being considered include delivery from external service providers and increasing digital access.

Mayor Joe Anderson commented:

“This has been a horrendous process, we have had to make some extremely difficult and hard choices in order to balance the books for the next year, but also to prepare for the following financial year.”

The Reader Organisation works closely with Liverpool Libraries to deliver a number of our Get Into Reading groups in various locations across the city. We recognise that the Council has had to make huge cuts in its budget and we will continue to work with them to ensure that that the educational, cultural and social benefits of reading are extended to as many people as possible in local communities.We remain entirely committed to delivering our Get Into Reading groups and will make new arrangements for any affected groups in libraries as soon as any further announcements are made.
On a happier note, campaigners who have occupied the closed Friern Barnet Library for five months have succeeded in persuading Barnet Council to hand the library over to the local community. The council finances have improved to the extent that they no longer require to sell the building off, so they are set to award them a two-year lease to run the library, as well as a grant of £25,000 and practical help.
The campaigners had almost given up hope of saving the library after its closure in April, but squatters from the Occupy movement entered the building in September, restocked the shelves with donated books, and provided a library service backed by local residents. They are now looking for at least 50 volunteers to run the library, but are committed to continue fighting for Barnet Council to provide professional library support in the form of a paid librarian.
As Friern Barnet demonstrates, libraries have an important role at the heart of communities, providing access to books and bringing people together to share in enriching experiences and improve wellbeing. They are currently facing many challenges, but their positive impact is vital to the health and happiness of communities everywhere; we will continue to do our best to help provide these benefits in Liverpool and beyond.

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