Belfast Telegraph

Library closures will ‘damage education’

By Michael McCready

The decision by the new library authority to propose the closure of three north Belfast libraries will damage the education of young people in these deprived areas, a councillor has said.

Libraries NI, the new body responsible for libraries, launched a public consultation on Monday, running until March 5, on the proposed closure of 15 libraries, including three in north Belfast.

It is aims to make improvements in the overall service but to do so needs to close or amalgamate some branches.

The libraries proposed for closure are Ligoniel Library, Oldpark Library and Whitewell Library.

During the consultation period a series of public meetings will be held and survey questionnaires will be available in libraries in the Greater Belfast area as well as online on the Libraries NI website ( www.librariesni.org.uk ).

Councillor Pat Convery has criticised the move and said: “When the libraries were under the control of the Belfast Education and Library Board, we fought these closures because it would hit deprived communities.

“There needs to be a change in order to maintain the service, but not one that affects these already deprived areas.

“By closing libraries we are doing little for the education attainment of young people in the local community.

“There is also a lot of elderly people who use the libraries and it would be a big blow to them if they were to go.”

Libraries NI has said it will cost £1.5million to replace Ligoniel Library, which has a maintenance backlog of £50,975.

It states that it would cost £2.5million to retain and refurbish Oldpark Library, which is a listed building.

It states that it is not possible to develop Whitewell Library and it is only open six hours a week.

On Monday, NIPSA held a protest outside Ballyhackamore Library in east Belfast against the proposals to close the 15 libraries.

Alison Millar, assistant secretary, NIPSA, said: “NIPSA intends to oppose the radical and wholesale dissemination of the public library provision in the Greater Belfast area.

“It is appalling that only nine months after the creation of the new Libraries NI that it is planning to remove 45percent 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 these radical cuts to library provision in the Greater Belfast area.”

Libraries NI says its programme of improvement means it has to consider whether there are some libraries no longer fit for purpose and which may need to close.

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