Not just a place to loan books, but a centre for our community
Published on: 28 Mar 2016
CAMPAIGNERS have gone into battle against proposals to reduce opening hours at our three local libraries.
The option favoured by South Gloucestershire Council – although it insists no decision has yet been made – would mean Downend, Staple Hill and Emersons Green libraries each being open on only two days a week.
Users say this is unacceptable and that each of the libraries fulfils an important function in the community that goes far beyond lending and borrowing of books.
The council launched a 12-week consultation in February about the future of all 13 libraries in the district.
Among the first to stage a protest were supporters of Emersons Green Library, who rallied children dressed as storybook characters for World Book Day and their parents for a demo.
Tracy Eatwell, one of the organisers, said that people strongly valued the library and its helpful and supportive staff.
Genevieve Whittle Ford, organiser of an online petition backing Emersons Green Library, which has attracted almost 50-0 signatures agreed.
“In the context of the parallel proposals for neighbouring libraries in Staple Hill and Downend, a vast swathe of South Gloucestershire will be left with entirely inadequate access to the vitral services currently offered by all the libraries in the vicinity.” she said.
Supporters of Downend and Staple Hill libraries have set up petitions on the South Gloucestershire Council website.
Nickie Corr, who set it up, said: “It is more than a place for people to loan books, it is a centre of our community. Older people meet their friends there and mums with young children attend activities there. Both of these groups would be more isolated were it not for the services of our local library.”
Staple Hill residents gathered outside their library on Saturday March 19 to protest against any proposal to reduce it to a “satellite” provision, particularly because of the level of deprivation in the area.
Councillors Ian Boulton, Shirley Potts and Michael Bell said in a statement afterwards: “For many years residents campaigned for a purpose built library building for Staple Hill .When the current library opened in 2009,it soon became a centre of community activities in the town centre providing a safe meeting place for the socially isolated and a hive of activities and events for families and special groups.
“The provision of information technology and free wifi accompanied by training from dedicated and skilled staff are of particular benefit to many of our residents who have no access to such facilities at home.”
Any changes to libraries will not be made before October 2017. The council has come up with some options based on the need to make savings of £650,000 a year.
Opposition councillors are angry that the ruling Conservative group chose to use a windfall from the Government to save 50p a month on the green bin charge rather than putting the money towards the libraries.