Belfast Telegraph

Replacements have to be found for libraries: Dodds

Libraries NI must demonstrate that the closure of three north Belfast libraries was not merely just a cost-cutting exercise, the local MP has said.

Last week the board responsible for local library provision in Northern Ireland announced that Ligoniel, Oldpark and Whitewell would close.

However there was good news for Cloughfern Library which earned |a reprieve.

Nigel Dodds MP has expressed huge disappointment at the decision to close three libraries along with relief that Cloughfern library is to remain open.

Mr Dodds has called upon Libraries NI to demonstrate that this review has not been a cost-cutting exercise and to bring forward proposals for how it will make library services available in areas where there will be closures, whether through the provision of new library premises or otherwise.

Mr Dodds said: “These closures will be a great loss to library users and the general community in each area. I have actively supported those who have campaigned to keep them open during the consultation period.

“I am delighted for residents in the Cloughfern area of Newtownabbey that their library has been saved, but am deeply disappointed that the libraries at Ligoniel, Oldpark and Whitewell will be closed.

“Libraries provide much more than just book-lending, they are centres for education, studying, leisure |interests, internet-access and |after-school support.

“The Libraries NI Board pointed to low usage levels and the poor physical condition of some libraries in support of its decision to make closures.

“It is therefore incumbent on the Board to demonstrate that this has not been a cost-cutting exercise. It must bring forward proposals for how it will make library services available in these areas, whether through plans for new modern library premises or otherwise.

“In many cases libraries are being closed in disadvantaged areas where there is clear need for additional support to promote education and learning.

A spokeswoman for Libraries NI said: “Libraries NI’s vision for the future was central to the Board’s decision making process.

“The aim is to develop a network of libraries across Greater Belfast with longer opening hours and welcoming, well-equipped buildings.

“Libraries NI is committed to investing in the implementation of this vision and will redeploy staff from the libraries which will close to other branches to allow for longer opening hours, including in the evenings and on Saturdays.”

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