Monday, February 08, 2010

Libraries NI met opposition at their public meeting in East Belfast tonight

Update - January 2011 - stage two of the strategic review is now underway - this time looking at libraries outside Belfast.

Libraries NI logo

As mentioned last week, Libraries NI are currently consulting the public on a near 50% reduction of public library branches in Greater Belfast. Earlier tonight, Libraries NI held a public meeting in the Mount Conference Centre, Woodstock Link. Several East Belfast tweeters were present: PUP’s Dawn Purvis and Sinn Féin’s Niall Ó Donnghaile. You can follow the gist of the discussion by reading their reproduction of snippets of the meeting below. (Update - Niall has also now blogged about the meeting.)

If you’ve an opinion, do respond to the libraries consultation (which you can now do online) and consider attending one of their remaining public meetings.

  • Thursday 18 February, 4:30pm - 6:00pm // Rathcoole Library, 2 Rosslea Way, Newtownabbey, BT37 9BJ
  • Thursday 18 February, 7:15pm - 8:45pm // Chichester Library, Salisbury Avenue, Belfast, BT15 5EB
  • Tuesday 23 February, 4:30pm - 6:00pm // Andersonstown Leisure Centre, Andersonstown Road, Belfast, BT11 9BY
  • Tuesday 23 February, 7:15pm - 8:45pm // Grosvenor House, 5 Glengall Street, Belfast, BT12 5AD

@NiallSF // leaving stormont 2 head 2 meeting in the Mount re proposed library closures in belfast

@dawnpurvis // At LibrariesNI consultation in east Belfast...about to start

@dawnpurvis // Irene Knox LibrariesNI presenting vision for future provision for Belfast

@dawnpurvis // I Knox "vision delivered in Dundonald, Finaghy and Bangor" #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // 1st question on why Woodstock Library and others closing ... Audience not happy #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // "No job losses" #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // ppl clearly not happy about any plan to remove library facilities in the east of the city

@dawnpurvis // On to questions...#LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Answer "concentration of libraries in east" #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Audience "new vision is like the marie celeste"n "this is not a business it is a public service" #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Big Q of questions #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // No fire exits in top 2 floors of Ballymacarrett #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // "library not a business but a public service" - very fair point!

@dawnpurvis // Ballymacarrett is a shared resource #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Library plays central role in communities, if you close Ballyhack you take the heart away #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // This is a money exercise #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // people want to know just what the savings will be....

@williamcrawley // @dawnpurvis I tend to use bookshops and online book outlets. Your tweets are making me want to join a local library!

@dawnpurvis // Closing 14 libraries will save est. £50,000 #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // lady from poland has said woodstock library is a valuable resource to support her in learning english

@dawnpurvis // Local Polish woman "library is lifeline for her and her son" #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Elderly "can't go 2 miles on a zimmer to get a book" #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Elderly, minority communities and children use libraries most for 'essential services' #LibrariesNI

@belfastkoala // @dawnpurvis save £50,000 for what? Libraries are more than books, they are community. This is so short sighted. (And books MATTER ... I would have thought encouraging reading at the start and end of life was hugely important

@dawnpurvis // Vision shows lack of iinterest in communities who use libraries #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // woman said she'll march to the hill to demand support for the libraries

@dawnpurvis // Net of proposals will increase social deprivation #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // one man suggested the panel are "creating the conditions for closure"

@dawnpurvis // Increasing elderly population should be used for planning services. How are they expected to travel? Also cost of bus fares! #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Financial matters should not take precedence over people #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // New migrant communities cannot afford travel costs #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Public transport not good for physically disabled - how can I travel? #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // one member of the public suggested "why fix something that isn't broke?"

@dawnpurvis // Banks were bailed out - why not libraries? #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Why are public meetings not held in the libraries? #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Don't think solutions will be forthcoming tonight #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Community places very high value on service you propose to close #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // How are you engaging with young people? Language of consultation doc is not user friendly #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Have asked schools. Have a focus group for young people #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Ballyhack 2nd busiest library in Belfast but 1st place Grove not earmarked for closure #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Politicians, their expenses and ideology all getting a turn #LibrariesNI

@dawnpurvis // Finishing off now. Some very passionate pleas for libraries to stay open. Valuable resources for community #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // according to nipsa rep still no sign of consultation forms made available in minority languages despite being well into consultation

@dawnpurvis // A very good airing of views. Next meeting is Rathcoole. All comments will help form final report which goes to Board in April. #LibrariesNI

@williamcrawley // @dawnpurvis Grove was my first ever library. Still remember the excitement when I got my first library card - the first ID card I ever had!

@dawnpurvis // Important that everyone makes a written submission on the consultation #LibrariesNI

@NiallSF // clear from tonight's meeting that there is a lot of genuine and emotive opposition to any planned library closures in the east...

Update - fair play to them, Libraries NI are publishing notes from the consultation events on their website, including this one.


Miriam said...

This is genuinely appalling. One of the first things my husband and I did on moving to the Ormeau was join the library, and while I'm lucky to not be losing my local service, I joined partly because of the broader principle of what libraries contribute to the community (I was a hoovering reader as a small child - Bangor library kept my Ma both solvent and sane! And I'm quite sure she is not the only mother who's ever used a library for respite), as well as the more personal uses such as internet at book loan.

Am very glad to see that MLAs are making sure they are present and recording the debate - just hope that becomes meaningful, in terms of advocacy and policy.

eddiec said...

When I was a kid we had a mobile library because we lived too far from our nearest branch. When it made its twice weekly visit the librarians were kept fairly busy. How times have changed when access to library facilities were actually promoted.

Anonymous said...

I work for ni-libraries. Their current management structure includes layers of managers earning over £45,000, include a CEO at over £100,000 and four "Business Managers" each at over £50,000 - and a lot more. These are obscene levels of pay for what is a pretty small operation - althoug the CEO boasts it is the biggest unitary library authority in Europe!

Anonymous said...

The previous comment about mangement levels in ni-libraries widely understates the situation. The authority is currently 'rolling out' a massive new management structure with Monthy Pythonesque levels of managers. Like the NHS it is bureaucracy gone mad - with fancy titles abounding. Meanwhile, down the pecking order the staff that they public deal with at grassroots earn a very much less (and probably work very much harder). Its time the Authority came clean about its management costs.

Anonymous said...

The last two comments are really true. At the next fixed-up consultation ask the most senior jobsworth for ni-libraries (or, like all dodgy organisations, mayeb one of the other names, NILA, libraries-ni) how much she earns and what her job title is - use freedom of information if they fight shy. Then find out how much a branch costs to keep open. Let's campaign not against cutting libraries - but to get rid of libraries-ni (or whatever it likes to call itself) and give control of services back to the community.

Arthur C said...

I'm unemployed and I live in East belfast. I regulary use the computers in Ballymacarrett. I use the computers for Job Searches. I live closer to Hollywood Arches but it is difficult to get on the computers. It's a nice enough library but a bit on the small side. I know that Ballymacarrett has an upstairs which I believe is empty, I know this because when I worked for the college in Tower Street I was a regular visitor. I have been in Ballymacarrett when differen nationalities have been in using computers.
I have read the online library document about the "Vision" and it appears to me to be wrong. It makes Ballymacarrett seem older and smaller than it is. I know there is ground beside the library for sale and surely it could be used for car parking etc.

Why was the protest at the public meeting on Thursday 18th at The Mount? Why there? Who organised it? Maybe NI Libraries should get to know the demographs of the area they are talking about.

On the same theme the next meeting is in Rathcoole, how can people from Cloughfern get to it?......Oh silly me NI libraries are going to supply transport!!! Not.

Maybe this is the reason that NI Libraries have the meetings out of the way from the proposed closure sites so that the real users of local libraries can't get to them.

Why not have these meetings in the Libraries marked for closure?

I think that the decision makers in NI Libraries all suppose that public transport is widely available, check Translink, borrowers have access to cars, all borrowers are fit and mobile, ageism and mobility are not factors.

Maybe if some of the decision makers worked at grass roots for a week or two they might get a different opinion. Oh silly me that might mean slumming it.

Anonymous said...

Arthur, believe me, all the management staff involved in these decisions are 'essential users' with their travel around the library service paid for by the public! They will have little concept of public transport and the limitations it imposes. These are people building their beautful careers on telling us, the public who pay their wages, what we want. Irene Knox is packing in a mighty salary of well over £100,000 p.a.

Anonymous said...

ni-libraries is an good example of the folly of Stormont. The created a unitary authority (with all the accompanying costs of HR, Payroll, 'Corporate Officers' and similar). It is under the power of DCAl (a very minor department that is trying to stay alive on the back of all this). Give libraries to the councils who for all their (many) flaws serve clearly defined communities and are subject to the ballot box. ni-libraries is a terrible organisation and unfit for purpose!