Cen­tral li­brary is one build­ing that re­ally should get us all sen­ti­men­tal

Bristol Post - - COMMENT -

FOL­LOW­ING the alarm bells gen­er­ated by Bris­tol City Coun­cil’s neigh­bour­hood con­sul­ta­tion of 2017, which in­di­cated that 17 of Bris­tol’s 27 li­braries could close, it was an­nounced in July this year that no li­brary would close; with fund­ing pro­tected for all 27 pub­lic li­braries un­til 2020.

Cab­i­net mem­ber for com­mu­ni­ties Asher Craig de­nied kick­ing the can down the road dur­ing a cab­i­net meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 2 when pre­sent­ing her lat­est li­brary strat­egy re­port.

The fu­ture of our li­brary ser­vice af­ter 2020 re­mains un­cer­tain. How­ever, it was made clear in the cab­i­net meet­ing that the 12 friends of li­brary groups in Bris­tol and other com­mu­nity groups would be part of the de­vel­op­ment of a li­brary strat­egy.

Whilst I wel­come the ar­rival of new tech­nol­ogy, ex­tended hours at cen­tral li­brary and more money, I am alarmed by a call for the re­view of the suit­abil­ity of li­brary build­ings, in par­tic­u­lar cen­tral li­brary, within her re­port.

Cen­tral li­brary was given to the peo­ple of Bris­tol in 1899. Since its con­struc­tion in 1906 the iconic build­ing, with stat­ues on the front depict­ing scenes from the Can­ter­bury Tales and Saint Bede, has pro­vided joy and in­spi­ra­tion to its many users.

In 2013 the base­ment of cen­tral li­brary was leased to a school for 125 years and I am con­cerned that the rest of cen­tral li­brary, money for which was given to the peo­ple of Bris­tol in 1899, could be leased or worse still sold.

Some coun­cil­lors have not at­tempted to con­ceal their sup­port for this scheme in or­der to raise much needed money in the face of cen­tral gov­ern­ment aus­ter­ity. Such coun­cil­lors say that we shouldn’t be sen­ti­men­tal about build­ings. I beg to dif­fer. I be­lieve that cen­tral li­brary is one build­ing about which we should be very sen­ti­men­tal.

Not only is it a func­tion­ing com­po­nent of our city’s legacy and story, but it was built with money left by Vin­cent Stuckey Lean for the peo­ple of Bris­tol to ben­e­fit from for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Oliver For­tune

Mont­pe­lier

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