Council ‘listens’ to library fears with cash but protest fight goes on

Broomhill Library hold an activities day to mark National Library day.
Broomhill Library hold an activities day to mark National Library day.

The saga of Sheffield’s threatened libraries took another twist this week after community groups were offered hundreds of thousands of pounds to help with running venues.

The city council has set aside £262,000 from its public health grant to cover costs at up to 10 libraries, which it says could prevent the need for closures.

But while some have given the announcement a cautious welcome, others say the funding has done little to change the situation.

Under the proposals - which need to be approved at a cabinet meeting next Wednesday - Broomhill, Upperthorpe, Greenhill, Tinsley, Jordanthorpe, Ecclesfield, Stannington, Frecheville, Totley, Gleadless and Walkley libraries can bid for the cash.

Another 12 sites will remain open as ‘key’ libraries and five will be community-led with council funding for two years.

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for communities, said the proposal proved the council had listened to protesters’ fears.

But Louise Harrison Walker, from the Totley library campaign group, said: “I’m a bit concerned that this is a bit of a poisoned chalice. Every site really needs to have even a part time member of staff.

“It doesn’t really change the model that was proposed last year.”

Meanwhile Broomhill Library Action Group chairman said: “Our view has always been to fight this. Libraries are going to need some professional staff.

“We submitted a business plan to try to protect the library but it’s a huge responsibility. You have to be really committed. It could start enthusiastically for the first year or two, but what happens after that?”

And Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said the south-west of the city was being ‘unfairly targeted’.

“It’s unjust that many of our most popular libraries such as Broomhill, Totley and Stannington are still set to receive no support and remain under threat of closure,” he said.

The plans were announced just days after National Libraries Day, when families enjoyed a wide range of activities from creative classes to storytelling.

A public meeting organised by Broomhill Library Action Group is taking place on Saturday at 10.30am in The Beacon Methodist Church, Fulwood Road.