Do you think they’ve got the message
Do you think they’ve got the message
SAVE Hanham Library campaigners have vowed to fight on as their campaign enters a new phase.
South Gloucestershire Council last week revealed new proposals to keep library buildings across the district open to users via swipe cards while cutting staff hours.
But the Hanham group members are unimpressed. They say the qualified librarians are a crucial part of the library and they also oppose plans to refuse entry to under-16s outside staffed hours.
Abi Unwin, one of the leading campaigners, said people were angry and disappointed at the council's new scheme, which would reduce staffed opening hours at Hanham Library – the fourth most well-used of 13 libraries in the district - from 41.5 to 26. This represents a cut of 37 per cent.
“We are shocked by these plans,” she said. “They were not mentioned at all when the council put forward its options for consultation earlier this year.
“One of the reasons the library is valued so much is because of its skilled staff. People don't like the idea of swiping a card to go into an empty library – it's dangerous.”
Secondary school students who rely on the library as a place for researching, writing and printing homework would also be hit, as they would not be allowed swipe cards until they were 16, she added.
The council is trying to cut the amount it spends on libraries. It put forward various suggestions earlier this year aimed at saving £650,000 a year by drastically cutting opening hours at all but a few libraries.
Following a three-month consultation, which received nearly 4,000 responses including Hanham's petition, it has come up with a new scheme using technology known as Open Plus, which is aimed at saving £500,000 a year. It says this “new model of service delivery” has been devised to build on views put forward by users and is informed by similar schemes elsewhere in the country.
It would mean libraries being open from 9am to 8pm, seven days a week, with only “core hours” staffed.
Councillors are due to vote on the plan at a meeting at the Armstrong Hall in Thornbury on Wednesday September 7 at 2pm. If approved, a further consultation period will be launched and the scheme will be piloted at Bradley Stoke Library before being introduced at other libraries, including Hanham.
The Save Hanham Library group was due to hold a protest on Saturday September 3 and members are expected to turn out in force to the meeting, alongside protesters against cuts at other libraries and trade unions.
Councillor Heather Goddard, chair of the Conservative-controlled council's environment and community services committee, said: “This innovative new policy on libraries allows us to save half a million pounds a year on our operating costs whilst more than doubling the opening hours of libraries across South Gloucestershire.
“We have had a lengthy consultation, and there will now be a second round to really make sure we have got this right. I encourage people to take part in the second consultation to have their voices heard.
“Our aim is to create a library service that was sustainable, modern, which can adapt to the community’s needs, and I think these plans will go a long way to achieving that.”
Labour's spokesman Councillor Ian Boulton said: “The previous plan would have seen most of South Gloucestershire’s libraries reduced to a shadow of themselves so I obviously welcome it being dropped.
"We still have a lot of questions about this new ‘Open Plus’ proposal, especially in relation to staffing and security, and we will be pursuing those.”
'The most welcoming and warm place...'
ABI Urwin, who has used the library for years with her children, said: "We're so passionate about the library, it is used every single day and the community needs it.
“I have never been involved in anything like this before but I feel so strongly about it. As a mother I have taken my two boys to the library since birth for Bounce and Rhyme sessions. So many people love that session and it helps new mums and mums in general meet other people.
“I think to some they think it is just a library where you can borrow books but it isn’t. There is so much more to it.”
Abi, who has spearheaded the campaign, added: “People who go there need it not only for books, internet access and information but also for a community hub, a place which is free and welcoming, somewhere where you are not a consumer but a citizen.
“The reason Hanham Library is supported is not simply because there is a campaign behind it, it's because the staff there have made it the most welcoming and wonderful place and we can't bear the thought of losing the heart of our community.
“It would be tragic if next summer, our kids can't go there to do the reading challenge, or print their homework, or go to ‘bookwurms’ club or enjoy the amazing selection of books.
“It says it all when I ask my boys aged three and six: 'do you want to go to the park, soft play or library?' And they say the library every time.”