We are disappointed and angry at the proposals outlined in the council’s ‘consultation’ and we hope that library users across Bristol will join us in opposing them.
The consultation is the first opportunity for the public to give their opinions and it is a travesty. Of the 27 existing libraries, the fate of 20 has already been decided and the public cannot alter this.
This is contrary to the message from deputy mayor Asher Craig before the consultation that “nothing is set in stone.”
The Central Library and six others are to remain in all three options offered. 13 others are being closed in all three options. Only seven (generally outside the central area) are left to squabble for public support, with Henleaze and Bishopston remaining open in two options, and Seamills, St George, Filwood, Knowle and Stockwood remaining open in only one of the three options.
At the time of the consultation, before the first cuts, the library staff and the public were encouraged to see this as the start of a creative redefinition of the library service, so that access would not be compromised but it would be made available in ways which were innovative and up to date.
Instead, what is being done is simply cutting existing provision. Love Bristol Libraries are enthusiastically of the opinion that the libraries should be seen as working together to support a citywide service where no citizens, wherever they live in the city, are excluded from a comprehensive library service.
We all recognise that the council faces a difficult financial situation that is not of its making, and a discussion about the cost and effectiveness of the current library service will form part of any consideration of saving money.
However, we also believe that the events of recent weeks have changed things – the political landscape has been redefined by the result of the General Election. Austerity has been challenged and the Bristol Labour MPs benefited massively from this.
The severe cuts planned for Bristol need to be politically re-examined by all parties, and immediately put on hold before irreparable damage is done to our valuable public services like libraries.
How can people help? There’s lots that can be done quickly and easily to show your opposition to these proposals.
Firstly, please complete the consultation and make your feelings known.
Secondly, lobby your councillor, your MP and the mayor. We know that they recognise how important libraries are to the people of Bristol, and many of them supported our campaigns in 2015 to keep our libraries open. Let’s remind them of what an important issue this is for us and the people of Bristol will take a stand on this.
Library lovers in Bristol face the fight of our lives to keep the service going: once it’s gone, it’s gone and we intend to oppose these cuts and preserve a library service fit for our great city in the 21st century.
In response to their comments, Asher Craig, cabinet member for communities, said: “No decisions have been made on the future of the service, the proposals put forward are ideas which we want to hear people’s views on. This feedback will then help inform the final decision.
“These proposals offer the opportunity to explore a range of possibilities which will transform the service, including where and how it is provided. We are open to suggestions, such as integrating and possibly co-locating libraries with other services or community facilities.
“Our options aim to provide a library service that best meets the needs of the whole city based on need and suitability.
“We appreciate that local people are understandably protective of their local libraries. However, with a smaller budget and many of our libraries needing investment, the proposals we are putting forward will offer sustainable library services into the future that people across the city can access.”
Diane Jones and Val Cobbin are representatives of Love Bristol Libraries, a group of volunteers from across Bristol who have come together to try to fight the council’s plans to cut library services.