Belfast Telegraph

Councillors unite to fight for libraries

By Lauren Mulvenny

Castlereagh councillors have unanimously thrown their support behind local libraries currently under threat of closure.

And the group pledged at a recent meeting in Upper Galwally to do what they could to save libraries across Castlereagh.

The comments followed a presentation from Alison Millar, Nipsa assistant secretary, during which she said proposals from Libraries NI aimed at modernising the service would lead to a “significant diminution of public library provision” across Castlereagh and east Belfast.

Libraries NI proposals, currently under public consultation, have deemed four libraries in the Castlereagh Borough as “not fit for purpose”.

They are Gilnahirk, Tullycarnet, Belvoir and Braniel, joining Ballymacarrett, Ballyhackamore and Woodstock libraries in east Belfast, also earmarked for closure.

Ms Millar further blasted the public consultation process, ahead of the public meeting last night, February 3, in Cregagh Library.

She said: “The meeting is not even being held in a library that is under threat.

“It will be hard for people from areas like the Braniel and Gilnahirk to get there.”

Councillor Joanne Bunting said she was “appalled” at the decision to close so many local libraries.

She added: “We could see this coming. Over the years the opening hours of the libraries have been reduced and this is now the reason they are deemed unfit.

“This has been a decision taken by people with little local knowledge, who have not considered public transport links, or how important libraries are to the elderly.”

Councillor Michael Long was equally critical. He described the proposals as “detrimental” to library services locally.

“This will have a great effect on the young and the elderly,” he added.

Councillor Michael Henderson also attributed the reduction in closing hours to the current predicament. He said: “A lot of the current problems have arisen from the opening hours. Often when people want to use libraries they are closed.

Councillor Sara Duncan said libraries were “still essential” in society, adding: “I want to urge all readers to oppose these proposals.”

Councillors also agreed to invite Libraries NI chief executive Irene Knox to the next council meeting, before the public consultation period ends on March 5.

Belfast Telegraph

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