Pupils urge council rethink over libraries

Petition to council in opposition to proposed closure of Totley Library
Petition to council in opposition to proposed closure of Totley Library

Primary school pupils took their campaign to save a Sheffield library to the town hall this week.

They handed in a survey of youngsters from across the south-west of the city indicating that a generation of children will be lost to libraries if the council proceeds to shut Totley and others. Then four pupils addressed the council at its monthly meeting.

Pupils from Totley, Totley All Saints, Dore and Bradway Primaries, along with King Ecgbert’s Secondary, are backing the campaign to save Totley Library - one of a series of protests trying to persuade the council to think again over library closures.

The survey suggested that almost two-thirds of children would stop using libraries altogether if the Totley branch was to close.

It found 92% opposed to closure, with 75% saying they visit the library with their schools, do activities with librarians, meet authors and perform plays there. Only 24% would use another library.

Mat Kik, of the Save Totley Library campaign, said the survey made “very sobering reading. A generation of Sheffield’s children will be lost to libraries forever if the council doesn’t rethink its proposals.

“These plans just don’t stack up. It would cost just £140,000 per year to save all our libraries for children across the entire city by turning them into community libraries, funded by the council, but staffed by volunteers - a drop in the ocean for its £1bn budget, and still saving £1.46m.”

Local Lib Dem councillor Colin Ross said the children “made a really strong case for keeping Totley Library open. The recent international survey of education standards shows that we as a nation are not making the progress we should. Shutting libraries that the pupils regularly use to support their learning will not help.”

The council blames severe cuts in Government grants for proposals to retain just 12 of the city’s 28 libraries as ‘key’ facilities. A further five would become ‘community-led’ libraries, receiving guaranteed council funding for two years, while 11 would become ‘independent’ facilities if operators can be secured.

Consultation continues, with decisions due early next year.Cabinet member Coun Mazher Iqbal said: “Myself and my colleagues are working tirelessly to try and keep as many open as we can.”

*The Friends of Zest Group will press Coun Iqbal to keep open Upperthorpe Library at a public meeting at the library on Saturday at 11am. Broomhill Library Action Group meets at the Beacon Methodist Church on Mondays at 7.15pm.