Coun­cil clash over clo­sure of li­braries

Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

TWO long-stand­ing li­brary build­ings are set for clo­sure with books and staff mov­ing to new sites with mul­ti­ple uses.

The changes, at Al­mond­bury and Holm­firth li­braries, have been de­scribed as “a good thing” that will evolve the tra­di­tional ser­vice into a more com­mu­nity-based hub for the 21st cen­tury.

Li­braries chiefs say the changes bring the ser­vice into the mod­ern age.

But the coun­cil has come un­der fire for ab­sorb­ing the ex­ist­ing 130-year-old Al­mond­bury Li­brary, on Stocks Walk, into the SureS­tart Cen­tre off Fair­field Road.

And a six-week com­mu­nity en­gage­ment ini­tia­tive, which has al­ready be­gun, has been dis­missed as “yet an­other cyn­i­cal false con­sul­ta­tion” from the Labour-run ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The coun­cil in­tends to shut and sell off the late Vic­to­rian Carnegie Build­ing in Al­mond­bury as it is old-fash­ioned and out­dated.

Built in the 1870s by the phi­lan­thropist An­drew Carnegie, it is con­sid­ered to be too small, not ac­ces­si­ble and does not com­ply with mod­ern dis­abil­ity pro­vi­sion.

The SureS­tart Cen­tre is con­sid­ered to be a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive with eas­ier park­ing and ac­cess. Cur­rently un­der-used, it fits the coun­cil’s fo­cus on more com­mu­nity-ori­en­tated li­brary use.

“It’s not fit for a mod­ern li­brary ser­vice for now and the fu­ture,” said se­nior Labour coun­cil­lor Gra­ham Turner.

“We have moved on apace. We are look­ing to have a strong li­brary of­fer and that’s dif­fer­ent to what was around in the Vic­to­rian pe­riod.

“The old li­brary has a cer­tain charm but it is also aus­tere. A charm­ing build­ing doesn’t de­liver a mod­ern li­brary ser­vice. There is the po­ten­tial to cre­ate a new com­mu­nity hub.”

Chief li­brar­ian for Kirklees Coun­cil, Carol Stump, said: “Li­braries are not just about bor­row­ing books any more.

“Li­braries are about be­ing hubs for the com­mu­nity and hav­ing that flex­i­ble space. At the mo­ment there is lim­ited space in the Carnegie Build­ing. It was built for a very dif­fer­ent li­brary use. The new build­ing is a more ap­peal­ing space for chil­dren in par­tic­u­lar. This is a good thing.”

Crit­ics of the changes in­clude lo­cal coun­cil­lors Ali­son Munro (Lib Dem) and Bernard McGuin (Con).

Clr Munro said the ex­ist­ing li­brary was sup­ported by a strong friends group that held a range of events and planned to set up a cafe.

She said: “Mean­while it seems the li­brary is go­ing to be com­bined with a fa­cil­ity for peo­ple with de­men­tia in the cur­rent SureS­tart build­ing, with the ad­di­tion of a new wing at con­sid­er­able cost.”

She dis­missed a con­sul­ta­tion ex­er­cise as “an ill-planned fait ac­com­pli”. She added: “This is the Labour way: they make a de­ci­sion be­hind closed doors, then pre­tend to con­sult lo­cal res­i­dents, fully in­tend­ing to ig­nore what­ever they say.” Clr Turner re­jected her com­ments. Clr McGuin said the changes would cause “a lot of dis­rup­tion” and would split the vil­lage in two. He said: “In terms of pounds and pence it prob­a­bly makes sense to move the li­brary but in terms of the com­mu­nity it does not.

“Vol­un­teers are not happy with the move be­cause mov­ing to a multi-pur­pose build­ing means you don’t need any­one to run the li­brary. Vol­un­teers aren’t re­quired. We will try to fight the de­ci­sion.”

Mem­bers of Al­mond­bury Li­brary Friends As­so­ci­a­tion (ALFA) will meet at the li­brary on No­vem­ber 18 at 2.30pm to dis­cuss the pro­posed changes. All are wel­come.

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