SOME libraries in Coventry are not “fit for purpose”, a leading councillor claims.
Education cabinet member David Kershaw made the claim as he spoke about Coventry City Council’s proposals for closures among the city’s 17 libraries.
Leader councillors have said remodelling services under a ‘City Centre First’ policy could leave library and other services in as few as five locations, unless volunteers or other groups stepped in to run them.
Coun Kershaw would not be drawn on which libraries would be closed, but said none would close for the next 12 months.
As we have reported, the council’s three-year budget plans see the full £5million saving from City Centre First only being realised in 2017/8, with other services closing too, including community centres, children’s centres, adult education centres and youth clubs.
All those services could be concentrated in as few as four “suburban hubs”, and the Central Library in the city centre.
Coun Kershaw has been under pressure from anti-cuts protesters and several communities launching ‘Save Our Library’ petitions. Each say their library is a crucial part of the community, words used by Coun Kershaw himself only last month.
He claimed no libraries staff would be made compulsorily redundant, and he suggested libraries could move to schools and other buildings in some of the communities.
He made the unlikely claim this “re-modelling” of libraries would actually “enhance” the service.
Coun Kershaw said the future library servie would be a “non-judgemental space where young and older people can explore and find new knowledge supported by staff; a place of mutual support and self-improvement.”
He added: “We need a better service at reduced cost and we can only achieve this by delivering the service in a very different way in the future.
“Frankly some of our libraries are not, currently, fit for purpose. Coventry people deserve better.
“So, if we can put our library service in the same high quality building occupied by, for example, a school, a health centre, a community centre or a place of worship, then why would we not do so when everyone would benefit?
“But we still have a great deal to do including listening to the people of Coventry of all ages and then, in the late summer or autumn, starting a full consultation process.
“I have already started talking to local groups who want to work with us and have already got some imaginative ideas of improving the service and saving money.
“But this does not mean we want to get rid of our professional library colleagues who are so valued by residents. No-one will be made compulsorily redundant as a result of this work.
“But volunteers can, and want to, support and enhance the service. Again, everyone benefits.
“It is also important to emphasise that this work needs to be done properly and takes time to get right.
“So no library in Coventry will close in the next twelve months while we continue to develop plans that will transform and enhance the library service, but see it delivered in different ways alongside our partners in public and voluntary sectors.”