6th Dec, 2016

Libraries are a basic human right say campaign group as petition is handed to Council

Shaun Reynolds 12th Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

ANGRY campaigners have called on Coventry City Council to work for city residents and not go against their wishes amid proposals to cut many of the city’s libraries.

Campaigners from Save Coventry Libraries last week handed in a petition signed by nearly 2,000 residents against the plans by the Council to reduce library services and replace fully trained, paid, staff with volunteers.

Campaign organiser Sarah Smith handed over the 1,886 strong petition – with an additional 456 online signatures – and further protests are planned amid doubts surrounding the future of children and youth services across the city.

All libraries have been divided into three categories – ‘Core libraries’, ‘Partnership libraries’ and ‘Community-led libraries or closures’.

Community-led libraries are at the greatest risk of closing unless no community organisations come forward to run them – Cauldon Castle School in Wyken, Cheylesmore, Coundon, Finham and Earlsdon fall into this category.

Partnership libraries will have a reduced budget and more self-service, though they could also close if no community organisations or volunteers step in to help.

Aldermoor, Allesley Park, Canley, Hillfields and Jubillee Crescent fall under this category.

Core Libraries, which are safe from closure, include Central Library, Bell Green, Foleshill, Stoke and Tile Hill.

A final decision on cuts to libraries will be made at the beginning of 2017.

Campaigner Ms Smith told The Observer that closing down libraries is like shutting down the working class.

She added: “Libraries are more than just books, it’s a safe place for elderly and young people to go.

“I know many people go there to use the computer facilities as they cannot afford to own one of their own.

“Libraries are a social venue as much as they are a educational venue – for some people it’s the only place they can go during the day to escape loneliness, to lose several of Coventry’s libraries would be catastrophic.

“It’s all very well people saying just travel to the next closest library, but how are elderly people going to be able to afford travel – are the council going to pay for their bus tickets?”

The 40-year-old, who taught herself to read and write in Coundon Library, last year completed her Level Two English – something she states wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her local library.

She added: “If the library service wasn’t there I wouldn’t be able to go to college, I don’t know what I’d do without my local library.

“Libraries are a basic human right and it angers me that the council are considering to cut them.

“Teachers at schools are already coming under further strain with class sizes rising, it’s time for our councillors to stand up for the people of Coventry.”

Chair of the campaign Nicky Downes said: “It is shocking that Coventry City Council is already searching for volunteers and community groups to take on the running of the libraries, despite the formal consultation not having started.

“It shows what a sham this consultation is.”

The Save Coventry Libraries campaign group issued the following statement which confirmed their reasons for opposing the Council’s proposals.

It reads: “We believe the library service should be fully staffed by paid and professional library staff.

“The evidence from around the country is that the volunteer model does not work – we believe the consultation run by the Council is deeply flawed and invalid.

“We call on the Council to fulfill its statutory obligation to provide a comprehensive library service, by drawing on their increased reserves, cutting vanity projects and campaigning for increased funding from central government.”