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Anger at plan to shut 14 Belfast libraries

Angry protesters have taken to the streets of east Belfast to voice concerns about proposals to close up to 14 libraries.

The public service union Nipsa organised the protest outside Ballyhackamore Library in response to an announcement by Libraries Nl that it was considering closure of up to 14 public libraries across Greater Belfast during public consultation on the service's future.

Nipsa said that this would be a reduction of over 45% of public library provision in the area.

Libraries NI confirmed last month that the closure of some libraries will be considered, but also stated it plans to develop a network of community and flagship libraries for the area with enhanced stock and services.

Alison Millar, Nipsa assistant secretary, said: “It is appalling that only nine months after the creation of the new NI Regional Library Authority they are planning to remove 45% of the public library provision, mostly in areas of high social deprivation.

“Nipsa is encouraging all library users, political representatives and other interested groups and parties to actively support the Nipsa campaign to oppose radical cuts to library provision in the Greater Belfast area.”

Nipsa also called on individuals and groups and political representatives to attend public consultation meetings organised by Libraries NI.

In December Dr David Elliott, chairperson of Libraries NI, said: “With the formation of Libraries NI in April 2009 there is now a single organisation with responsibility for all public libraries across Northern Ireland. In that context it makes sense to undertake a full evaluation of our services and to seek the public's views on proposals for the way forward. As a first stage in the process options for service delivery in Greater Belfast are being considered.”

Irene Knox, Libraries NI chief executive, said: “We need to be able to provide a greater range of books and other resources, open longer hours and have attractive, welcoming, well-designed and equipped buildings that people will want to visit.

“It also means, however, that we have to consider whether there are some libraries that are no longer fit for purpose and which might need to close. If this should be the case Libraries NI will look at alternative ways of providing services.”

The public consultation runs until March 5.

Belfast Telegraph