Revised BCC library service plans set for approval
Sutton Coldfield Library is set for a reprieve and Aston library is to remain open in Birmingham City Council’s revised library services plans.
Revised proposals for the future of Birmingham’s Community Library service have been drawn up following feedback from citizens during a recent 12-week period of public consultation.
Initial plans for a three-tiered service (with opening hours and staff support reduced in tiers 2 and 3) were put forward as part of the council’s effort to respond to reduced funding from central government and would have seen the libraries at Aston and Sutton closed – reducing annual expenditure by £1.9million by 2018/19.
However, comments and feedback along with potentially up to £150,000 in a one-off funding pledge from Sutton Coldfield Town Council have helped the city council refine its plans all within the reduced finances.
The result of which means that Sutton Coldfield Library will remain open after April 1st whilst the city council, town council, the Library Lobby campaign group and other organisations work together to see if a long-term sustainable partnership solution can be established for the service.
Good news too for Aston Library which will remain open as a Tier 3 library, with nearby Birchfield to operate as a Tier 2 instead of a Tier 1 facility.
Campaign group The Library Lobby welcomed the news and stated how the past few months have been an extremely difficult time for library staff and that they would like to acknowledge the professional service they have continued to provide in the face of great uncertainty… “From the outset The Library Lobby has put librarians at the heart of what we’ve campaigned for, and now, more than ever we will need to work closely together on creating and implementing a plan to create the best community library in Birmingham.”
Zoe Toft of the Library Lobby said:
“Whilst this isn’t yet a done deal, it’s great news – perhaps the best we could possibly have hoped for – and so I have to thank everyone who has played a role in getting us to this point, in particular all the campaigners who voiced their support for the library, the media who helped get our message across, Cllr Liz Parry for her work that facilitated the town council making a financial commitment to the library, and to Cllr Ewan Mackey for his successful negotiations with BCC.
From where I stand there are now two key issues.
First, the Town Council must sign off the immediate financial commitment agreed to at the Town Council meeting in January. The key dates for this are February 15th, the next Finance and General Purposes committee meeting and the full town council on February 21st);
Second, for this plan to blossom it is vital for community groups to step forward and become involved. ‘The library lobby has worked hard campaigning to save the library. We now need groups that are experienced in (or wish to to set up) running cafes, activity groups, reading groups, support networks and other community events for which we know there to be a strong appetite and desire to see taking place in the library. It is now time for everyone who wants to make a positive contribution to both the success of the library and a better Sutton Coldfield for all to get in touch. Without the creative and enthusiastic involvement of a broad range of Sutton Coldfield residents, the future of the library will remain in doubt.”
With fellow Library Lobby member Jonny Mayner adding:
“We’ve had some good news, but it is a bit early for celebrations. We will have a town library until the end of August that will be open for 35 hours per week. If I raise a glass at this stage it will be in tribute to everyone who has worked so hard to achieve this stay of execution. It is now incumbent upon City Council and Town Council to continue to listen to Sutton Coldfield residents and to work together to find a sustainable long-term solution that will see a full service, professionally-staffed library at the heart of our town centre.”
The Library Lobby developed from a Facebook page set up by local Liberal Democrat Jenny Wilkinson who commented on the news:
“While the combined efforts of The Library Lobby, Sutton Coldfield Town Council and local campaigners has earned a stay of execution for the Library, there remains a lot to be done in a relatively short period to secure a permanent solution. We urge local community groups who feel they could make a contribution to a ‘community hub’ to come forward to support a combined proposal to maximise the use of a the site for the town.”
Sutton Vesey City and Town Councillor, Rob Pocock (Lab) gave credit to Councillor Ian Ward for listening to the case for Sutton Coldfield Library at a time when huge cuts to major areas of the City’s budget were being made and commended him for his “fair and honest treatment”. Cllr Pocock went on to say:
“This is a massive success, achieved by the united community action of Sutton Coldfield residents. All political groups across Sutton worked for this result, but it has to be said that the stunning and passionate work of the Library Lobby, a totally independent band of determined local people, made the decisive difference. It is also proof positive of the value of having our new Town Council. I’m aware many people have be increasingly disappointed at the Town Council’s slow progress in making a major impact for its residents. But the decision to put aside the money that has led to this decision to shelve the Library closure, just shows what can be done if the Town Council starts to think big and pull its weight.”
Cllr Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
“When we launched our period of public consultation last year, I made it very clear that this was a genuine consultation through which we wanted to hear any alternative ideas citizens had that would deliver a library service within the financial constraints the council is having to operate under.
“I am delighted by the engagement we have had through our series of public meetings, consultation survey, petitions and other channels. Almost 2,000 formal responses were received, which confirms how well-regard the city’s service is – and by working collaboratively we’ve been able to come up with revised proposals that address our challenges and broadly meet the wishes of partners and citizens.
“We’ve come up with a set of proposals that mean just one of our 37 community libraries will have to close, this being Kents Moat – being demolished anyway as part of the Poolway re-development – which is some achievement given the budget challenge we face through government cuts.
“I thank everyone who took the time to participate. However, our financial challenges are not getting any easier, so I continue to urge potential partners who can assist us further to continue coming forward as we are keen to do everything we can to offer the broadest library service possible in the years ahead.”
Long Term Future
The Library Lobby is convinced that in order to provide a long term, sustainable future for the library, collaboration and partnership across the community of Sutton Coldfield will be necessary. To this end The Library Lobby is inviting community groups who would like to use the library / library related space (eg, the 2nd floor in the Red Rose Centre as in the Library Lobby’s proposals outlined above) to come forward.
The Library Lobby is keen to hear from:
- Group(s) interested in putting on exhibitions, for example of local artists
- Group(s) interested in setting up a community cafe
- Group(s) interested in work with older people and/or people with dementia, to create, for example a Memory Lab – where the public can transfer obsolete formats such as VHS and audio cassettes to digital files, or a Dementia cafe. This could perhaps tie in with local history and archives.
- Group(s) interested in technology, education and training who would be interested in creating a digital hub with resources available to the public, a maker space, a Library of things (lending out equipment), running / training for a Repair cafe
- Group(s) interested in running Seed libraries, Toy libraries and other sorts of (non-book) libraries
- Group(s) interested in setting up a Town wide read – perhaps all primary schools / all secondary schools, or a Summer reading challenge for adults
- Any other group(s) who feel their core values are well aligned with the library and who would like to be involved in creating the most vibrant wider library space in Birmingham