Libraries are to stay open - for now

June 29 2018
Libraries are to stay open - for now

THE threat of closure of Hillfields Library and cutbacks to Fishponds Library have been lifted for the time being following a U-turn at Bristol City Council.

The authority had been looking at shutting 17 of 27 libraries across the city to save £1.4 million a year but this led to protests in many areas and a stay of execution while a review was carried out.

Details of the council’s new proposals for the future of the library service were due to be revealed in a report due out just after Fishponds Voice went to print.

The Mayor, Marvin Rees, said the aim was to invest to keep every single library in Bristol open. He said they were important for increasing literacy and digital inclusion and reducing social isolation.

Announcing the change of policy at Wick Road Library on June 19, he said:  “We are looking forward to continuing to work with local community groups and councillors to transform and modernise our library service into the future, building on the work of local Labour Councillors Estella Tincknell and Jo Sergeant – both former branch librarians.”

In a follow-up blog, Mr Rees wrote about trialling new ways of delivering library services, warning that the current structure was out of date and has to change. 

“We are now taking a strategic approach to Bristol’s libraries so that we can provide a library service that best meets the needs of the whole city for the 21st century. 

“With time, libraries have already adapted: beyond free books and information, libraries are increasingly relied upon as social spaces and sources of digital facilities. By working to keep the libraries open, we will have more time to explore community led options and ensure we consider potential changes carefully and in line with the pace of community support and action. Now is the time for everyone to come forward and make sure we continue to build a library service we can all be proud of.”

Campaigners welcomed the move to keep all libraries open until at least 2020, but expressed concerns over the long-term future. Fears remain that volunteers will be brought in to reduce costs, which might work in places where there are a number of affluent people who can give their time but is likely to be less viable in disadvantaged areas.