A longer chapter for future of city libraries

Campaigners and protesters against proposed library closures gather outside Sheffield Town Hall.
Campaigners and protesters against proposed library closures gather outside Sheffield Town Hall.

A deadline for potential rescue plans for Sheffield libraries is being extended as the council comes under renewed pressure to withdraw the threat of closures.

Protests groups from across the city submitted 11 petitions yesterday (Wednesday) before a debate triggered by more than 5,000 names on petitions.

Before the meeting, the council announced that volunteers interested in taking over the running of libraries now have an additional two weeks, until January 24, to submit proposals.

Cabinet member Coun Mazher Iqbal said: “A number of groups have told us they just need a few more weeks to get their initial business plans together and we appreciate that.”

He added: “We want to keep as many local libraries open as possible. We don’t want to see any library close at all. But because of this Government’s devastating funding cuts have left us with little choice but to ask people to step up and take over the running of their local libraries if they wish to see them remain open.”

If initial business plans are successful, volunteers will have until the end of June to complete a full business plan.

The future of 12 libraries has been secured, with a further five to be given funding as community-led libraries. But there are questions over another 11, which could be saved only if community or other organisations step forward to run them independently.

Campaign groups that lobbied the council yesterday included Greenhill, Broomhill, Totley, Park, Burngreave, Upperthorpe and Walkley.

Residents in Stannington are one of the groups preparing to take over the running of their library.

After conducting a local survey, a ten-strong community group is submitting a first stage management proposal.

Group chair Jenny van Tinteren said: “We have a modern, purpose-built library that is accessible for disabled and elderly people and families. If we lose it, this would really hurt the community – especially a big rural one like ours.”

Meanwhile, a ‘readathon’ will be held at Upperthorpe Library to celebrate the community value of libraries and to protest against the risk of closure.

The Friends of Zest are asking adults and children to read out loud from books, from 1.30pm on Friday, January 24 until the library closes at 9pm, and then from 7am to noon on the Saturday.

It is intended is to start with Roald Dahl’s book Matilda - a story about a girl who loves reading, despite attempts to stop her.