SCHOOLS and community groups are being urged to help develop Coventry libraries threatened with closure.
Amid growing concern and petitions against potential library closures, education cabinet member David Kershaw today delivered a statement about their “critical” contribution in all communities.
Minutes after protesters against budget cuts proposals including library closures rallied outside the Council House, Coun Kershaw told the council each of Coventry’s 17 libraries was a important part if its community.
He said consultation would continue into how the libraries service could be “developed and possibly restructured”, including with wi-fi access in every library.
He said: “A future restructrured libary network would be an established partner for every school in the city. There’s no reason why that can’t happen with consultation.
“Local organisations would find an equally model allay in their library.”
His statement stopped short of ruling out closures, amid heavy government funding cuts to the council.
The council’s “City Centre First” proposal has mooted axing by 2019 council services in most communities including libraries, children’s centres, youth clubs and community centres.
The plan could retain city centre services, and community services at just five new one-stop hubs in five of the most disadvantaged 18 council wards.
Leading councllors have called for community organisations and volunteers to step in to run some services instead.
The City Centre First proposal has already prompted petitions from library visitors in Earlsdon, Allesley Park and Finham fearing closure.
Finance cabinet member Damian Gannon has pledged he will listen, with a public consultation into this year’s budget proposals due to end later this month, ahead of next month’s budget setting meeting.
Coun Kershaw told councillors “clarification” was required over libraries’ future.
He said having 17 libraries, the Central Library in Smithford Way, city centre, mobile libraries and housebound services was a “privilege”, and his vision for the service’s future has received a “warm reponse” from library staff during visits.
He said: “We will continue to explore opportunities of working in imaginative and thoughtful ways with members of the Coventry community aboout libraries.”
The former Coundon Court School head added libraries provided “non-judgemental” spaces with knowledgable staff support for the young and vulnerable to access information, for “self-improvement” and to develop a “love of reading”.
A third of England’s population still visits a library every week, including half of residents in less advantaged areas, added Coun Kershaw.
He said each library in Coventry had a “unique contribution to make and all are going from strength to strength.”
He added: “We might need to do things differently and respond more aggressively to improvements in digital technology.”