A reduction in opening hours at a prominent east Belfast library has prompted fears that the facility is on the “slippery slope to closure”.
Tullycarnet Library is now open only on a part-time basis, resulting in local political representatives rallying round to ensure that it doesn’t succumb to the same fate as Braniel and Gilnahirk libraries — which have both already closed.
Libraries NI head Irene Knox attended a recent Castlereagh Borough Council meeting, where she faced frustrated councillors on the matter.
Although she invited local representatives to come up with a plan to promote the library further, some fear for the future of the facility.
Alliance councillor Michael Long said: “Tulycarnet is one of the most socially deprived areas in Northern Ireland. To lose the library service there, would be to hit an area where educational attainment is already very low.
“What we need now is more community outreach to show people the benefits of the library and better promotion of the existence of the library — some people are not aware of it.
“We are keen to do whatever we can to ensure that the library remains open.”
Mr Long said that it was recommended at the council meeting that a mobile library service currently operating in the Braniel and Gilnahirk areas should also be promoted more.
Last week it was revealed that more libraries in Northern Ireland could close because of impending spending cuts.
Multimillion-pound savings have to be made in the coming years with a recruitment freeze, reduced book stock and shorter opening hours all possibilities, the chief executive of Libraries NI warned. Staff sickness or pregnancy in small rural premises could force closure because they cannot be replaced.
Libraries head Irene Knox told a Stormont committee: “If we close a library as a result of having to make savings in this sort of process it is very unlikely that even if things get better in four years’ time that library will be able to open again because you will have decreased the service.”
A spokesperson for Libraries NI told the Community Telegraph that it had been consulting with Tullycarnet library customers regarding services and new opening hours. “Of those consulted, 89 per cent agreed with the new proposed library hours and these have been operational since September 20.
“The new hours, which include a Saturday morning, facilitate all current library activities, reflect busy periods and retain the popular late evening on Thursday when the very successful Tullycarnet Yarnspinners takes place.”