19/09/2011

Further Library Provision Slashes Revealed

Libraries NI have announced plans to reduce the opening hours at Cregagh Library by a quarter, from 40 to 30 hours per week.

This announcement follows the closure of three of the seven libraries in Castlereagh and further reduces service availability for local people.

Alliance East Belfast MP, Naomi Long, and Castlereagh Central Councillors, Michael Long and Carole Howard, have all expressed their concern at the proposals.

Cllr Michael Long stated: "We intend to challenge this proposal, which is a further significant blow to library services in the Borough. Our experience in Braniel, Gilnahirk and Belvoir is that in all three cases significant reductions in hours, far from stabilising the situation, in the end led to the closure of those libraries."

Cllr Carole Howard added: "Libraries provide a very valuable service in the local community but to do this they need to be accessible. We want to see a proper plan for investment and support of these services and their social, educational and cultural value properly recognised by Government. We will be seeking a meeting with the Chief Executive of Libraries NI to raise our concerns and would encourage people to respond to the consultation."

Ms Long said: "We understand the pressure which Libraries NI faces with respect to their budget; however, they have in their documentation identified that libraries affected significantly by the Stage 1 strategic review of provision, because they are close to libraries that have been closed, should only have their opening hours reviewed again in September 2012; however, Cregagh Library has not been afforded this protection, despite the fact that during public meetings on the Stage 1 Consultation, library users in Braniel and Gilnahirk, both of which ultimately closed, were told they should use Cregagh Library as an alternative."

The proposals follow the refusal to grant Belfast's Central Library funds of £20m for a planned refurbishment.

The plan to renovate the 123 year-old building was halted because of Northern Ireland Assembly cuts.

Last year plans were also announced to close 15 libraries in the Belfast area, including Woodstock Library.

Libraries NI are also waiting for consultation on proposals to reduce the opening hours of libraries in County Armagh, which would result in a 45% cut in library provisions.

See: Save Our Libraries campaign

(JG/CD)

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