The first that the two librarians at Wick Road in Brislington knew of the threat to close their library was when they read about it on Monday afternoon in Bristol24/7.
I was sat only a few feet away when the librarians came across our article naming them as one of the libraries up for review. And it was definitely the first they had heard of it.
They seemed confused as to why Wick Road has been one of the libraries to fall into the ‘under threat’ category, and they especially queried the issue of community demand.
“They would change their minds if they came here on a Wednesday morning,” one said. This is when Wick Road hold their popular baby and bounce sessions, just one other non-traditional activities at the library that also includes a knit and natter.
The two librarians quickly pored over some spreadsheets and discussed which other libraries they felt didn’t fit the review criteria either and which ones should take their place on the list.
By the end of the day several people had come to discuss the library’s future in hushed tones, members of Wick Road’s own passionate users committee as well as what look like library officials.
You should never judge a book by its cover, and the same could be said for a library.
Upon first viewing, Wick Road is an unassuming brown box of a building. I visited on a showery Monday afternoon and followed a mother helping her young son up the stairs while a lady and a pram came down the adjacent ramp.
I took a seat at one of the several sets of chairs and tables, very glad of the warmth after the miserable weather outside was informed that wi-fi is free and I didn’t even need my library card or a password.
The library is open plan and airy, just one large room with high windows letting in plenty of light all the way around, not what I expected from the bland exterior. The side where I made myself comfortable is entirely dedicated to adult fiction and boasts a very large crime fiction section. There is even a small Polish book section.
Over the other side there’s a spacious corner for ‘early readers’ complete with Hobbit-sized furniture and lowered shelves. There are children’s illustrations and collages decorating the walls and the area was already busy with surprisingly quiet toddlers getting immersed in the boxes bursting with picture books. More mothers and young children drifted in and out as I sat there. When school was over at 3.30pm, there were even more families using the space.
The two librarians have their desk in the middle and they shuffled busily about the place discussing new display ideas and updating the what’s on leaflet section. “Hello my love” was their greeting to a man who has just come in to use the Internet; he’s obviously a regular. There are five computers in the centre and the printing service seems to be well used by a variety of visitors.
Wick Road library celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2013 and it looks like they will fight to celebrate many more.
UPDATE 4pm, February 24
Bristol City Council have contacted us with the following response.
Di Robinson, service director for neighbourhoods, said: “We would never wish for our staff to find out about an issue which could affect them by seeing it in the media.
“We had a firm plan in place to share our initial proposals with members of staff, councillors and media representatives before Cabinet papers were made public yesterday. These were to be held in strict confidence so that everyone who needed advance notice would get it.
“Sadly, a breach of the embargo by a person or persons unknown meant the news entered the public domain early. This was outside of our control and we responded by emailing staff as well as following through with the planned briefings.
“We have the greatest respect for our dedicated library staff, and we will continue to work closely with them throughout this challenging process.”