I know being in council can be quite hard but us children need our library - Sam, 8
Published on: 28 May 2016
EIGHT-YEAR-OLD Sam Richards earned loud applause when he led the protests at a full South Gloucestershire Council meeting about threats to library hours.
Sam, a pupil at Bromley Heath Junior School, urged councillors to keep Downend Library open.
“I am eight and I love books,” he said. “Books fuel my imagination. My love of books has made me want to be an author when I grow up. If the library was closed I'd find it hard to experiment with different styles of books.”
Sam spoke of how the library helped his little sisters and was a safe place for people of all ages to meet, as well as providing access to books and computers.
“I know being in council can be quite hard but us children need our library. Please don't shut down our library. Thank you.” he concluded.
Council chairwoman Erica Williams said Sam was a very eloquent young man, and his comments would be passed on to those who would decide how the council would make the necessary £650,000 a year savings on library services.
The meeting on May 17 took place just after the end of a 12-week consultation in which more than 3,000 people sent individual feedback forms and a number of groups staged protests and handed in petitions.
This followed the publication of suggested options that included drastic cuts in the hours at most of the area's 13 libraries, including Downend, Staple Hill and Emersons Green, meaning each would be reduced to opening on two days a week only.
The council has stressed that it is considering all ideas and will not make any changes before October 2017.
Sue Poole, vice chair of Downend and Staple Hill Library User Group, handed in a petition of more than 1,000 names in support of Downend Library before the meeting. A petition with a similar number of names from Staple Hill was presented to councillors by William Barlow, who asked the council to look at making savings in other areas rather than libraries.
He said reducing Staple Hill to a satellite library would be detrimental to the community and he urged councillors to protect library services “for the young, for the old and for everybody in between”.
He was backed up by Fiona Foyer, who said Staple Hill Library was a hub of the community and was vital, especially for providing access to the internet in an area of deprivation, and 11-year-old Faith Davis-Heyman, who said: “I read about 90-100 books a year. I will be heartbroken if you take it [the library] away.”
Writer Ali Bacon spoke of her memories of using Downend Library as a young mum and said all communities needed libraries, especially relatively new and expanding ones away from extablished town centres.
“Libraries underpin social, cultural and mental wellbeing,” she said.
Ms Bacon said libraries were a soft target but it would be a huge mistake to cut the service.
She also spoke in favour of skilled librarians, saying that a library without a librarian was basically a computer room.
“Every hour you cut from library provision and every reduction in staffing is a blow to those who are relying on it,” she said.
Abi Unwin, speaking before handing a petition of 3,601 signatures in support of Hanham Library, said research showed people were much more likely to use a library if it was no more than 1.4 miles from their home.
Other speakers gave their backing to Filton Library and the mobile library service.
Responses to the consultation will be analysed before a new paper is presented to councillors in September so they can decide on the next phase of the library review.
A council spokesman said: “It is hoped that at this stage a strategic approach enabling the council to deliver the maximum local library service possible, while still making the required savings, will be agreed. Consultation will then be carried out on updated plans for each library, building on that initial strategic approach.”